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Examples of five mobile bar code strategies during the 2010 holidays

By Mike Wehrs

If there was one certainty in the beginning of an uncertain 2010 holiday shopping season, it was that most consumers carried a mobile phone with them as they hit the stores.

The desire to get more information while they are on the go is becoming more common, and more consumers are turning to their mobile device to access information while they are away from desktops.

According to a recent survey, an overwhelming 97 percent of consumers found mobile bar codes useful during their holiday shopping. This creates new opportunities for brands, marketers and retailers to influence consumers at the moment they are making a purchasing decision ? or even facilitate a purchase.

Mobile bar codes such as QR, EzCode or UPC give brands and marketers an easy, fast, extremely cost-effective way to capitalize on these trends.

These bar codes leverage the enormous and still-growing installed base of camera phones and are fully complementary and very assistive to traditional media campaigns.

We have seen some really exciting ways that retailers such as Target, Gap and Neiman Marcus are using this new technology to connect with their customers in new ways.

The following are five real-world examples of how brands and marketers have used mobile bar codes. All of this can be quickly activated using an existing mobile strategy and traditional media plan.

Empower consumers in-store
Even if they have spent hours online or scouring newspaper inserts, consumers still face a bewildering array of choices in the store.

This problem is an opportunity for brands and marketers to provide shoppers with a convenient way to get more information about a specific product.

For example, shoppers can scan codes from in-store signage, hangtags and shelf talkers to get information such as to what variations of that product are in stock or recommendations on complementary products.

Gap recently used a QR code on its signage to drive shoppers in the store to its jean style finder to choose the right fit.

Brands can also incorporate QR codes and registered UPC codes into their campaigns and marketing materials and on-package to take control of the content while giving shoppers valuable information and cross-sell offers.

Mobile-enabled traditional advertising
Traditional media such as print ads and direct mailers are effective ways to build awareness of products and sales.

But the mobile medium makes traditional media even more effective by providing consumers with a convenient way to get more interactive information than what the ad or mailer can provide.

For example, by scanning a 2D code in a newspaper ad, a mobile phone could automatically launch its media player with a video showing how easy a super automatic espresso machine is to operate.

Once there, the consumer could be shown the closest retail location and a special rebate offer.

There?s ample research showing the effectiveness of mobile-enabled traditional ads.

In fact, a recent MMA-Luth survey of U.S. consumers found that 60 percent of shoppers notice ads that allow a mobile response, and mobile campaigns typically have response rates of 50 percent or more, depending on the media type.

When Target released its annual holiday toy catalog with QR codes that linked customers to videos of new toys, with an option to add an item to their wish list, the technology was touted as so easy to use that ?even five-year-olds can use them.? 

The application made it easier for shoppers once they got to the store to look for the toy they wanted, and also gave retailers insights into what products could be top sellers.

Enable immediate purchases
Mobile bar codes also offer consumers a convenient way to purchase a product right from their phone.

After scanning a code in a print ad to get more information about a new album, the consumer could be offered the opportunity to buy a digital copy or a ringtone of the first single. This strategy uses convenience to encourage and facilitate impulse buys.

Esquire Magazine ran a number of codes from apparel retailers such as Brooks Brother and J. Crew that deep links a reader right to a featured product. Most retailers have either launched, or plan to launch, mobile commerce platforms to make this a reality.

Go social
Just as they enable ecommerce, mobile bar codes also make it easy for consumers to share information about a product.

For example, a consumer could scan a Twitter code to share a pre-created message, such as ?Walking into Best Buy to get the new Black Eyed Peas CD for 20% off.?

That strategy can build a buzz quickly and cost-effectively, and potentially with more credibility because it is coming from friends rather than a traditional ad. ran a television ad on Bravo which linked a code to a special offer, and offered an option to Like share the offer on Facebook. That one engagement just got amplified to hundreds or even thousands.

Showcase apps that showcase brands
Many brands now have their own smartphone applications, but building awareness and downloads takes disciplined strategy like marketing any other product.

Indeed, 2D bar codes are an effective way to drive these results from traditional media already in the marketing plan.

Neiman Marcus ran an ad in The New York Times featuring its new gifts application. It included a QR code to make it easy for iPhone owners to download the application in one click. 

Verizon Wireless has also published hundreds of codes linking to individual Android applications from media such as print, in-store and online. 

This effort has seen hundreds of thousands of scans in a very short period of time and these scans have driven the user behavior they were looking to effect at far higher rates than expected.

AS CONSUMERS INCREASINGLY become aware of the different ways bar codes can deliver information they want directly to their mobile device, we can expect to see more brands integrating them into their advertising campaigns.

Last year proved to be a watershed for mobile bar codes, and 2011 is poised to become the year that mobile bar code applications go far beyond just delivering information by helping brands provide a customized retail experience for each consumer.

Mike Wehrs is CEO of Scanbuy, New York. Reach him at .