Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
First, don’t assume consumers know what to do with them.
Retailers embarking on a mobile marketing campaign relying on bar codes might want to consider that not all consumers know how to use them. That is mistake number one, says AT&T Inc., based on its work with mobile marketing campaigns.
Merchants should take note because 41% of marketers surveyed by AT&T in September said they anticipate deploying a mobile bar code campaign in the next 12 months. Consumers use their smartphones to scan bar codes to open mobile web sites, watch videos or get coupons. AT&T, one of the leading U.S. providers of mobile phone service, launched a mobile bar code services business unit last year that offers analytics about scans and a free bar code scanner app for consumers.
Campaigns may entail one or two types of common bar codes. The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is a one-dimensional bar code found on virtually all consumer goods. Scanning a 1-D code can lead to product information hosted on the mobile web by a scanning company, a comparison shopping engine, a retailer or other companies.
A QR code is a form of two-dimensional bar code. It appears typically as a black-and-white square with a pattern of tiny black-and-white squares within; sometimes a company may include its logo within the square. A consumer downloads a QR code scanner app onto his smartphone. He opens the app, points the smartphone camera at the QR code, and the app reads the code and connects him to mobile web-based content.
“To the uninitiated consumer, mobile bar codes look strange and mysterious,” AT&T says. Marketers should include instructions for scanning bar codes, a link to a scanner app and a hint at what happens after scanning a code, says Igor Glubochansky, executive director for AT&T’s mobile marketing solutions team.
Another requirement is to ensure the bar code links to a mobile optimized site, he says. “No one appreciates having to constantly zoom in and out of a web page,” he says of non-optimized desktop web site pages.
Retailers also should give consumers an incentive, such as a coupon or discount, to scan a bar code, Gluboshancky says. That can help increase the number of times consumers scan a code.
Integrate bar codes into campaigns, and not just as solitary marketing items, he adds. They should be part of all marketing materials in a campaign.
Another component is tracking the data generated when consumers scan bar codes. Not all bar code scanning apps supply analytic information about scans, Glubochansky says. “Look for a provider that offers demographic and location details or real-time updates so you can change the linked-to content anytime, without having to recreate the bar code and collateral,” he says.
Incorporating these suggestions into a mobile bar code campaign can help retailers, he adds, especially as more merchants choose bar codes to link their bricks-and-mortar stores to mobile content accessed via smartphones. “Mobile bar codes can provide anything from product information at the point of sale to contests and how-to videos,” Glubochansky says. “They open new channels for a direct dialogue with consumers.”