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Macy?s CMO: QR code revival driven by image recognition

NEW YORK ? Macy?s chief marketing officer at Mobile Marketer?s Mobile FirstLook: Strategy 2014 conference said that as the retailer looks to make a harder push into personalization this year, the combination of QR codes with image recognition still makes the mobile bar code relevant.

During the ?Macy?s: Going from Department Store to America?s Omnichannel Store? opening keynote session, the executive laid out how the retailer has built up its mobile strategy in the past few years and also spoke about upcoming initiatives. One of the more interesting topics discussed is how the retailer leverages mobile to offer consumers a choice in which type of technology that they want to engage with, such as bar codes or image recognition.

?QR is still very much an important part of our mix as well,? said Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer at Macy?s, New York. ?As a matter of fact, you?ll see QR come back in spring along with image recognition technology.

?Again, it?s because we want the customer to be able to choose how she wants to interact, so there?s different ways that [consumers] go through the QR code versus the image recognition technology, so they will both exist.? 

Driving mobile retail
Macy?s has tested a variety of different print-to-mobile technologies in the past few years.

Most recently, Macy?s incorporated a new type of image recognition technology during a fourth-quarter campaign called ?Star Gifts.?

The campaign curated a collection of 230 must-have gifts through direct mail pieces.

Using image recognition technology, consumers could download an app, wave a phone over the direct mail and access exclusive content.

The strategy behind doing so was to pack as much information as possible into a piece of direct mail that can otherwise be limiting creatively.

Consumers could then shop the item or watch 83 different product videos. 

The underlying key in Macy?s strategy is that the consumer gets to decide how they want to use technology, which is why the brand plans to include both QR code and image recognition initiatives in a spring campaign.

Ms. Reardon also said that the opportunities for image recognition go beyond print and can be incorporated into TV and out-of-home marketing.

In addition to personalization, Ms. Reardon cited segmentation as a key area of growth, in particular with geo-location. 

For Macy?s, mobile fits into a holistic marketing strategy that spans across digital, broadcast, outdoor, social, print and direct mail.

Take television, for example.

Macy?s is a big TV marketer, and Ms. Reardon estimates that the retailer runs TV campaigns 44 weeks out of the year.

Macy?s has included mobile calls-to-action in these TV spots for quite some time to integrate with SMS efforts.

In September, Macy?s rolled out a TV ad to promote the brand?s mobile app as a shopper?s best friend.

Tying the TV medium, which has a broad reach, with mobile calls-to-action helps educate consumers on the benefits of shopping through a smartphone or tablet.

Millennials are a target demographic, and mobile helps Macy's reach these consumers with relevant offers and marketing.

Macy?s core Black Friday shoppers are women aged 25 to 54 years old. She shops 12 times per year, has a Macy?s card and knows exactly which specials and doorbusters she wants before stepping into the store. 

These consumers are increasingly moving towards expecting to receive offers and deals through their mobile devices, which in turn is fueling Macy?s investments to improve the brand?s mobile products.

In particular, Macy?s revamped the homepage of the app this year with new navigation that shows consumers all of the different features that the app worked.

Additionally, promotions and new product launches are played up in the app to drive in-store traffic.

?The more that we can perfect the mobile-enabled Web and really get that app to a place that becomes so important to her, we are going to win,? Ms. Reardon said.

Pushing the in-store experience
As Macy?s works to make better mobile apps and sites and integrate the medium into marketing, the retailer is also eyeing on improving the in-store experience.

For example, Macy?s has rolled out touch screens in 65 stores that let consumers self checkout.

Additionally, shoppers can redeem mobile offers by placing a mobile device in front of a RFID scanner.

Macy?s began testing ship-to-store this quarter and has plans to roll out the technology this year.

Most recently, Macy?s started piloting Apple?s iBeacon in two stores within the shopkick app (see story).

?We?re really finding that for those young adopter customers who really love technology and love shopping that way that it has been a huge hit,? Ms. Reardon said.

?The great thing about the technology that we have in stores is that it brings the entire inventory of Macy?s to you in one place,? she said. ?We?ve got 800 stores ? they?re not all exactly alike. We go from small little stores to the likes of Herald Square. So what we?re really trying to do is bring the inventory of Herald Square to every single store across the country, and these screens within the stores allow for that to happen.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York