Dimensionalizing the Shopping Experience

With 2-D Barcodes

I am sure you have noticed the accelerating pervasiveness of QR Codes in magazines, billboards, TV, T-shirts and of course retail.  It’s being touted as the “virtual bridge” between the physical world and the internet, but too often in the US, execution does more to disenfranchise customers than engage them.

Let me explain. Many large retailers and the vendors that supply them (think bigger boxes) are starting to label their products with 2-D codes in hopes of converting smartphone wielding customers at the point of decision. Unfortunately, in the US at least,  the user experience is seldom worth the effort because scan results can be slow and generally lead the user to a smaller, harder to read version of the vendors existing website. What a loss of opportunity!

 In Asia, QR codes have been the rage for a couple of years and the experience is becoming more  enticing and innovative. One study claims that 90% of all Japanese consumers have “shot a code” in the past year.

In Korea, Tesco wanted to become the #1 retailer without opening more stores. This is a market with hard-working time-starved, commuting  consumers who dread shopping. So, Tesco created life-like retail environment on the walls of the subway stations, where commuters could “shop” by scanning  codes of pictured items and have them  delivered that same day.

Following this campaign, online sales increased dramatically (Nov 2010 to Jan 2011). Through this campaign, 10,287 consumers visited the online Tesco (recently renamed Homeplus) mall using smartphones. The number of new registered members rose by 76%, and online sales increased 130%. Currently, Homeplus has become No.1 in online market and is a very close 2nd offline.

By comparison, US adoption is slower. A ComScore study released last month said that 6% of US mobile shoppers scanned a QR code in June of 2011.  These users tend to be relatively affluent, under 45 years old and more often than not, male.  I’ve attached Comscore’s results to the left. Most surprisingly, a total of 64% of users claimed to have scanned inside a retail or grocery store. That 9.2M people scanning retail codes in a single month… not a bad start.

  (Click to Enlarge)

What will it take for QR codes to reach critical mass? Real consumer value! Using the technology in creative ways that make the consumer want to interact with the brand and learn more about complex product offerings. I saw Mick McCormick, EVP of Global Sales & Marketing for Columbia Sportswear speak at last weeks Shop.org 2011 Summit. McCormick demonstrated a few QR code-driven videos that were improving in-store conversion on technical  apparel by as much 500%!  Based upon that kind of  sales improvement, they have plans on using QR codes across all of their product lines.

During the presentation, one apparel vendor expressed frustration with retailer hessitancy in allowing coded tags within their stores. McCormick’s advice was clear – deliver relevant content that drives the retailer’s objectives (e.g. conversion) and avoid redirecting consumers to vendor landing pages.  For retailers, the brand experience is everything. Redirection to potentially thousands of vendor sites undermines that objective.

ClickGenie, a mobile QR startup in North Carolina has an interesting approach to managing this problem. They have developed a hosted solution that simplifies the content management from disparate vendors. This is accomplished by customizing a number of pre-approve templates that are branded to match the retailer’s desired user experience. Vendors simply upload content and the environment is controlled and branded by the solution, using generally available smartphone QR readers.  Additionally, the solution enables other retail-specific workflows like consumer wish lists, product recommendations and real-time offers.

See the recent Apparel article or scan the QR code below to learn more about ClikGenie.

The mobile revolution is in it’s infancy and in the not too distant future all of us will be using new technologies like mobile NFC  and QR to learn more about the products we buy and hopefully, to simplify our lives.





Posted Date: 8/19/2011

ClikGenie Video

Leverage the QR Craze to Engage Shoppers

By  George Hoffman

Apparel retailers and brand owners looking to open a mobile channel for virtually unrestricted customer engagement on the selling floor and beyond, need search no further than QR (quick response) bar codes and their own imaginative merchandising practices. The increasingly ubiquitous checkerboard-like bar codes have become a staple at such big box venues as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy where they enable smartphone delivery of information on retail products ranging from potted plants to high-def TVs.

Apparel businesses are likely close behind, and those that launch early will gain a competitive advantage, especially with the young, tech-savvy demographic so coveted by clothing retailers. In 2011, the smart play for apparel retailers and brands is to set business objectives for QR bar codes and develop merchandising strategies to achieve them.

Opening the door to two-way engagement  

If you’re like most retailers, chances are good that increasing interaction with customers will rank high among your QR business objectives. According to a recent Forrester Research Study, 66 percent of retailers stated their number one objective for investing in mobile technology was to increase customer engagement.

But QR codes alone will not create an engaging customer experience. It’s how you employ the technology that will determine its success. The opportunities to engage in-store shoppers via QR codes are limited only by a retailer’s or brand’s creativity. The code opens a two-way channel that can accommodate video, chat, text, images and virtually any other type of messaging. Providing additional product information is one obvious potential QR use. Helping shoppers to accessorize is another.

In each case, imaginative merchandising will be key to increasing sales…

Click Here to Read the Full Article.

George Hoffman is president of ClikGenie, Inc., a QR merchandising solutions firm based in Charlotte, N.C. Reach him at Ghoffman@ClikGenie.com