January 24, 2011, 12:11 PM

Six questions to ask before going 2-D

Retailers should ponder the answers before using 2-D mobile bar codes, Knotice says.

Lead Photo

Quick Response, or QR, codes like the one above enable retailers and brands to link smartphone users to relevant mobile web-based content.

Two-dimensional mobile bar codes have begun popping up in magazines and on packaged goods. Smartphone users with a free 2-D bar code reader app launch the app and hold their camera over the bar code, which is a square with a pattern of boxes or other shapes. The app scans the code and automatically sends a user to mobile web-based content, anything from a product page to an e-mail sign-up page to a mobile video.

2-D bar codes can help retailers and consumer brand manufacturers help customers by providing a boatload of additional information that doesn’t fit in an ad or on a product. They have the potential to improve consumer engagement with a brand and help clinch a sale. But how does a merchant or brand know if 2-D bar codes are a good avenue to explore?

Direct digital marketing firm Knotice says in a new report titled “Harnessing the Power of the Mobile Web” that retailers should answer six questions when considering a 2-D bar code marketing strategy:

1. Will using a 2-D bar code make my consumers’ experience with my brand better?

2. Will my consumers see and recognize my bar code?

3. Will consumers know what to do when they see my 2-D bar code?

4. If they don’t, how do I explain what to do?

5. Once a 2-D bar code reader app is installed, how many steps will it take for consumers to scan a code and land on mobile content?

6. Are there analytics available through the 2-D bar code reader app provider?

“When considering 2-D bar codes as a connector that drives to your mobile web experience, be sure to not use technology for technology’s sake,” write Knotice’s Dave Lawson, director of mobile engagement, and Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services, in the report. “Ask yourself the simple but important questions to assure you are delivering the right experience for where you are in your customer lifecycle.”

There are multiple purveyors of 2-D bar code systems and free reader apps—including NeoReader, ScanLife and Jagtag—working with various types of 2-D bar codes, the most prominent being QR, or Quick Response. Knotice singles out Microsoft Corp. and its proprietary and free Microsoft Tag system and reader as a player that’s making strides in the burgeoning 2-D field.

“They have done a commendable job with device support; providing a simple, universal call-to-action that can accompany any tag for consumers to download the tag reader to their device; ensuring marketers a relatively consistent consumer experience from app installation through scan; and delivering a reporting environment that provides useful app analytics for a large number of scans,” the report says.

A Microsoft spokeswoman says Microsoft will eventually offer fee-based options for customers but for now, all existing features and analytics will be available to everyone at no cost.  

Overall, 2-D bar codes may become more prevalent and useful as the prominence of the mobile web and smartphones increases—prominence that is increasing at a rapid pace, mobile experts say.

“In short order, the mobile device has rapidly become a most-trusted companion and valuable tool for U.S. consumers,” the report says. “It transforms how people connect to information and experiences as they navigate through each day. With that, the mobile web offers an exceptional opportunity for initiating deeper relationships and more meaningful interaction with customers, offering powerful new ways to reach consumers at each stage of the customer lifecycle, extending the brand relationship.”

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