QR Codes – The Next Generation of In-Store Communication

To restate the obvious, mobile technology has changed our world forever. We live in a wired world where dinner party questions are answered by Google or Wikipedia instead of through lively debate. We demand information immediately.

Shoppers are also using on-line and mobile tools to help them gather information to help them make decisions in-store. The next leap in this technology revolution in-store is the QR code.

But what is a QR code and how can retailers and suppliers use them?

You may have used a QR code without ever knowing. My first experience was with the boarding pass Air Canada sent to my iPhone.  That funny looking square that looks a bit like a UPC code (after going through a blender) is a QR Code.

These codes, which you have likely seen starting to pop-up everywhere, can carry more information than a UPC code and can link to a wide range of rich-content stored on-line.

To access its information, you take a picture with your smart phone and use and app such as Optiscan to scan and read it.

You are then able to access an Internet site, which contains rich media, including everything from product information to full-length commercials to exclusive promotional offers.

The possible uses for this technology in CPG categories is almost endless:

Displays – Enrich your product displays with QR codes to share information about new innovations, promote product usage ideas such as recipes and to allow shoppers to immediately enter contests or join your Facebook page.

Packaging – Many companies are already using QR codes on-pack to provide information about farming methods, nutritional information, organic status and product advice.

This is a natural fit for a category I know quite well, Hair Color. The offer is complex and the perceived risk of making an incorrect decision is high. Imagine being able to scan a QR code in-store that links to a quick “Is this product right for me?” survey and a how-to video on YouTube. Shopper conversion and consumer satisfaction is bound to increase.

In my opinion, any in-store display material without a QR code in 2011 will be the equivalent of cathode ray television.

You can start generating your own QR Codes on-line just like I did in less than one minute using a generator such as Kaywa.

Scan It And See Where It Takes You!

The QR code has the ability to revolutionize how we communicate to shoppers in-store via point-of-purchase materials. The message can now go beyond a one-way message on cardboard to a two way dialogue and exchange conducted over the Internet.

I admit that I am a late adopter of QR code technology – in fact a reader of our newsletter (you know who you are) suggested it as a story well over six months ago and I wasn’t quite ready to get my head around it. You can catch up as well by:

  1. Getting a smart phone (it is almost 2011)
  2. Downloading a QR Code scanning app
  3. Developing a QR code strategy as part of your in-store communication plan

Retailers will also have to rethink their strict “no photo” policies in-store in reaction to this evolution. A shopper who is engaged enough to scan a QR code and is summarily berated by store security will most likely result in a lost sale.

Expect to see QR codes more and more often in stores across Canada as shoppers demand more information to help them make a purchase.


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