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Scannable print ads make resurgence as mobile users eschew QR codes

With major brands including Target tapping scannable print ads to target on-the-go mobile users, marketers can expect a continued decline of QR codes as consumers demand streamlined, no-download-necessary engagement methods.

Print advertisements that are scannable with smartphones are set to make a significant resurgence this fall, with companies such as Shazam and Digimarc teaming up with large brands to offer consumers additional instant gratification on mobile. Users could respond to Shazamable ads more positively due to the scan-and-go nature of the units, which do not require them to download several mobile applications or take multiple steps to complete purchase.

?Scan-to-buy is the next frontier in the retail market,? said Larry Logan, chief marketing officer of Digimarc, Beaverton, OR. ?In the very near future, consumers will care less about ?who? (e.g., Amazon) delivers their purchases.

?They will see items they want, such as on Facebook or Pinterest, and expect to be able to scan the image with their smartphone, hit ?buy,? then get the product delivered to their doorstep shortly afterwards. This will disintermediate many of today?s online shopping services.?

Digital recognition
Scannable ads rely on digital recognition and visual search to identify photos of logos and products and offer users a quick path to browsing before purchasing.

Target is the latest retailer to join forces with Shazam and implement a scannable print ad in the September issue of Vogue magazine. Readers who have already downloaded the Shazam app, which is typically used to locate the names and artists of music songs, may scan the ad with their smartphones to get transported into a digital shopping experience.

The Vogue issue will showcase almost one hundred Target items, of which 30 will be instantly available to consumers via Shazam?s ?shop now? button. As more social media sites, including Twitter and Instagram, roll out ?buy now? functions, users will become increasingly more complacent at expecting the same instant gratification on other communication channels, digital or not.

Meanwhile, the Walt Disney Company recently leveraged a scannable ad for its Tomorrowland film, enabling consumers to shop movie merchandise after scanning packaged goods and posters with their smartphones.

Digimarc?s print and audio identification is currently integrated into Target?s Vogue ads.

?Digimarc provides key enabling technology for scan-to-buy,? Mr. Logan said. ?With online images enabled, developers can then create the linkage directly to the transaction.

?Unlike image recognition solutions, the Digimarc Bar code is an absolute, fixed code within the image,? he said. ?Image recognition attempts to guess what a package is, and has to do a lookup in the cloud which is often only 80 percent accurate.

?If you?re an online retailer, you want to ensure that you deliver 100 percent accuracy each and every time. Otherwise you deliver a frustrating shopper experience, such as linking to or shipping the incorrect product, which creates customer service and returns headaches for the retailer.?

Offering incentives
While consumers generally are more in favor of scannable ads ? given that they already have a scanning app downloaded on their device ? some marketers may have to offer promotions or giveaways to soften the barriers of entry.

For example, this past spring Coke Zero rolled out a ?drinkable commercial? in which the Shazam logo was superimposed in the left corner for the duration of the video. When fans scanned the logo with their smartphones while watching television, they were presented with a mobile coupon for a complimentary 20-ounce bottle of the beverage.

This likely fueled more consumers to be much more aware of Coke billboards or commercials, in the hopes of catching one to receive a free drink.

As QR codes continue falling to the wayside and consumers turn their noses up at downloading many separate retail apps, scannable ads will likely see an upward trajectory this year, helped along by major brands breaking the point of entry.

?Digimarc has been providing print-to-digital experiences for leading publications and advertisers for years,? Mr. Logan said. ?The company does not divulge specific ROI or performance, as this is confidential and competitive information between our clients.

?However, these clients continue to find high reader engagement suggesting that they see benefits. In addition to the immediate reader engagement benefit, Digimarc allows them to amortize and capitalize on their purely digital assets, getting greater usage by incorporating within and linking to print.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York