Reading Between the Lines: Mobile Barcodes Move Forward

Feature Article

Reading Between the Lines: Mobile Barcodes Move Forward

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  March 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

The mobile barcode is a fun and exciting new technology that enables people to use their cell phones to capture a code on a label, sign or other item and get more information about that product or service. It’s early days for the mobile barcode, but Diane Strahan, vice president of mobile marketing at Neustar, says that the mobile barcode appears poised to take a similar path to that of SMS, offering simple applications initially, but delivering more personalized information over time.

Right now mobile barcodes typically send the cellular phone user right to a website link to get more information on a product. (Yesterday I saw a mobile barcode on a realty sign in my neighborhood, for example. The code takes you to an online listing with details of the home’s features.) Strahan refers to this as the direct method, in which an HTTP link is embedded in the code. The next step, she says, will involve mobile barcode applications that can authenticate users and contextualize the delivered content based on time of day, location, etc., so it’s more relevant. She says this involves the use of managed, or indirect codes, which involve a URI look up of the code, and that code comes back to a clearinghouse.

Neustar’s heritage of delivering numbering and addressing solutions and its recent acquisitions, which have focused on making connections to help enterprises get the right content to the right people, devices and platforms, dovetail nicely with that movement, she adds.

“It’s really about enabling smart connections, and that’s what mobile barcodes are about as well,” says Strahan.

She says that Neustar supports all the open, standards-based barcode technologies and makes the mobile barcode experience for end users, retailers and others involved in the delivery chain interoperable and frictionless. It does that, in part, by providing an open system in which advertisers and others can deliver the mobile barcode services they want and have scale, security and reach, she says, adding that this year she expects mobile barcodes to be used across a variety of verticals.

“In 2011 we’re going to definitely see more standards and definitely see more integration and scale,” she says, adding that most big retailer and big brands already have been involved in mobile barcode pilots.

While many companies are fired up (in a good way) about mobile barcodes today, it actually was a negative development that fueled much of the interest in mobile barcodes, says Strahan. She explains that scanning applications that enabled shoppers to compare prices between different retailers was a big wake up call for many businesses.

“The industry woke up a little bit because you had these incredibly entrepreneurial people out there launching shopping applications,” she says.

Mike Wehrs (News - Alert), CEO and president of Scanbuy, which says it offers the broadest suite of barcode readers on running on various mobile OSs and has a code management platform, recently released a new study on mobile barcodes. It revealed that there was a 1,600 percent increase in the number of scans last year as compared to the previous year. Also, indicating a shift from the early adopter to the mainstream, the report indicated that more women and more people outside the 15- to 25-year old age bracket are now using mobile barcodes.

Wehrs says there are two kinds of barcodes: the 1D, or universal package code, which is on every package out there; and the 2D, which can drive action on a phone, like sending the user to a website or initiating an SMS to opt a person into a program or contest.

So who specifically is using mobile barcodes and for what? Wehrs says Target did campaign with Scanbuy between Black Friday (News - Alert) and New Year’s Eve. The retailer sent out a toy catalog with a code next to various toys. Scanning a code would launch a funny video related to the toy on the user’s phone. Not only did this drive interaction with the customer, says Wehr, it also gave Target (News - Alert) an idea about what toys were likely to sell best, based on number of viewers of the video. He adds that this kind of application could also enable the retailer to gauge interest in the product by look at the location of users who watched the videos and glean demographic information on viewers based on the mobile devices they used to access the video.


Key Takeaways from Scanbuy’s ScanLife Mobile Barcode Trend Report

·         Traffic was up 16x in 2010 overall

·         Traffic doubled since the last Trend Report in September

·         UPC scanning outpaced 2D codes as a result of the holiday shopping season

·         The largest scan days were the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (as people received gifts, many being new Smartphones)

·         The top most used features for people scanning UPC codes are coupons, prices and nutritional information.

·         There was a 13 percent increase in female to male traffic, and a 25 percent increase in the 25 to 54 age group.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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