Friday, October 14, 2011

Using QR Codes to Trigger Retail Sales

Wilson Kerr of Unbound Commerce is an expert in helping retailers mobilize their sites and develop Facebook commerce for excellent customer experience and incremental sales. He made an awesome presentation to my social media marketing class last week in which he argued that mobile commerce is exploding and all ecommerce retailers need to become mcommerce retailers also. The factoids in this Ad Age poster support his argument. If you’re interested in drilling down for details on any of them, visit the page and click on the Mobile Marketing tab.
Once a retailer has mobilized her site and is open for mcommerce, the trick becomes to attract people to the msite, at anytime from anywhere. I was struck by Wilson’s concept of “Trigger Point Marketing.” It’s sort of like POS promotions that we all learned about in Marketing 101, but now the point of sale is anywhere! The media channels for Trigger Point Marketing are all the usual suspects including Facebook, Twitter, email and SMS. Two that are getting a lot of attention at the moment are QR and NFC codes.

I wrote about the similarities and differences in February when Google dumped QR codes in Places listings for NFC codes. NFC codes are operationally more complex, requiring a Places decal to be delivered to the local retail establishment. The program has been on a steady roll-out since April of this year. NFC have a lot of potential advantages, including tap-and-go payments, but for now QR codes are more accessible to the individual marketer or business. All you need is a free reader and qrcode creator and there are many of those available on the web.

Wilson’s slide shows some applications and there are many more. Home Depot has partnered with Martha Stewart’s lines to post QR codes in their stores—the POS concept again. When a shopper uses a smart device to scan the code he is taken you to the appropriate web page on one of the MSLO sites for detailed product information. That’s pretty cool for the US, but the really visionary application is Tesco’s virtual stores in Japanese subway stations. Here’s a video that you really should see. The US isn’t there yet in several ways, but if busy Japanese commuters love the concept can Europe and the US be far behind?

Your basic QR code has also gone social. Here’s one (yes, I made it myself and it wasn’t hard). I thought about putting it on my blog, but I remembered Wilson’s advice that it’s silly to expect people who are sitting at a computer to grab their mobile phone and scan a QR code on the screen. I settled for a simple “Follow Me on Twitter” icon for this blog, but try this tag for yourself to see how it works.

I was interested in an article on iMedia Connection this morning opining that the QR code might be dead. My experience parallels Sean X Cummings' informal survey; few people understand them and that's a problem. It would be resolved over time with wise use that adds customer value. One of his points is that agencies are using them stupidly, on moving buses for example. That certainly doesn't help the cause.

For my own part, I’m off to order new business cards with a QR code on them! What other applications can you think of that provide genuine value?

Article first published as Using QR Codes to Trigger Retail Sales on Technorati.

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