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CEOs dish on QR codes at Mobile Marketing Summit

NEW YORK ? Scanbuy CEO Mike Wehrs defended QR codes during a heated CEO panel at Mobile Marketer's Mobile Marketing Summit.

Mr. Wehrs was one of several CEOs on hand at the conference that was held yesterday at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. The session was titled, ?Hard Issues: What Needs to Happen to Accelerate Mobile Advertising and Marketing Deployment During the Holidays.?

?Mobile has become so pervasive in our society in how someone will engage that a brand marketer has a pretty good guarantee that they will stop what they are doing and respond ? that is incredibly powerful,? Mr. Wehrs said.

?It is also an empowerment tool that allows for a one-to-one conversation,? he said.

?Marry the two together and if you are not making mobile a part of your holiday plans, you are missing a powerful and important tool.?

The other presenters included Greg Schmitzer, CEO of Mad Mobile, Nicole Skogg, CEO of Spyderlynk, Oren Michels, CEO of Mashery, Ken Harlan, CEO of MobileFuse and Amielle Lake, CEO Of Tagga Media. The session was moderated by Susan Donahue, managing director of Skyya Communications.

Secret code
There was a lively discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of QR codes, tags and bar codes during the panel.

?Slapping a QR code on an ad is not a mobile strategy,? Spyderlynk?s Ms. Skogg said. ?It is important to know what you are testing and what you are trying to achieve.?

One of the issues with bar codes and tags is that marketers are not thinking through the campaigns.

?Every time you use a tag, you have to have a call to action, to tell consumers what they are going to get and give them instructions how to scan ? don?t make the assumption that they know,? Ms. Skogg said.

One of the issues around bar codes is that there are a lot of competing standards, which is adding to the confusion in the marketplace.

?I think we will end up with one kind of bar code that means take me to a Web site and others that have some other kind of functionality behind them,? Ms. Skogg said. 

The issues also include logistics around how to use QR codes to enable the delivery of a coupon that can be redeemed in store via a mobile phone.

?There are logistical hurdles but there are things that work now and work with existing technology,? Ms. Skogg said.

Despite these challenges, brands are increasingly finding they can drive interactions through consumers? phone via QR codes and this should continue through the holiday season.

?We are seeing increasing rates [for bar code scanning],? Scanbuy?s Mr. Wehrs said. ?We?re seeing through our own networks 3 to 5 million scans a month ? those are numbers that start to matter.

?For the holiday season this year, you are going to see growth rates equivalent to what you saw in 2010,? he said. ?There is still tremendous opportunity here.?

One of the retailers doing a good job marketing with bar codes is Home Depot, which is using bar codes in its catalog, online and in-store, per Mr. Wehrs.

?It is a comprehensive strategy that does multiple things,? Mr. Wehrs said.

In the purchase funnel
Mobile is a great tool for driving engagement with consumers during the holidays and providing a foundation on which retailers and brands can drive loyalty once the holidays are over, according to panelists.

?Mobile is the only media tool that allows a brand to engage with a consumer in any point in their media mix and start to convert them across the purchase funnel,? Tagga Media?s Ms. Lake said.

However, brands and retailers need to make sure they are taking the right steps to take advantage of mobile.

Too many marketers are still trying to take a Web site, shrink it down and put it on mobile without putting enough thought into how people use mobile.

?The thing holding mobile back is that the mobile app and mobile Web experience sucks,? Mashery?s Mr. Michels said. ?A great app and site grants a wish ? it does one or two things really well and that?s all.?

Mr. Michels pointed to an American Airlines app that lets users check-in for a flight as an example of an app that does one thing very well. No one will use it make their travel plans but it is very helpful in terms of the thing it is meant to do. 

?When we work with customers, we are looking at how do they take what their customers are doing at a particular time or place and create a great experience around doing just that one thing,? Mr. Michels said.

?Purchasing through the phone is now really happening,? he said. ?You are seeing apps that rather than simply help someone find a product will actually handle the transaction.

Others pointed to the challenges getting brands and retailers to commit budget to mobile.

?What?s holding back mobile? Budget and balls, that?s what,? Tagga Media?s Ms. Lake said. ?Everyone is so used to doing regular TV and print campaigns and because they don?t understand mobile they aren?t going to be successful and aren?t going to be able to captivate their customers, who have changed the way they engage with them.?

A lack of strategic deployment by brands and retailers is another issue facing mobile this holiday season, according to the panel.

The panelists agreed that mobile traffic is growing, that consumers are coming to look for products and, increasingly, to buy.

With this is in mind, it is important retailers and brands pay particular attention to what they want to accomplish via mobile.

Stop thinking about mobile as an add-on and really think about your campaign as a whole, what are you trying to achieve,? Tagga Media?s Ms. Lake said. ?And work with vendor or agency to figure out how can reach your objectives,? she said.

Final Take
Oren Michels is CEO of Mashery, San Francisco