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QR Codes: The Next Step in Retailer Loyalty Programs April 26, 2010

Posted by StrategicGrowth in marketing strategies, Marketing-changing technology, mobile, Mobile Marketing.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As part of our on-going information series about Mobile Marketing, we are working to make our readers familiar with the different types of Mobile Marketing tools available for promoting your products and services.  One that has yet to gain much attention is QR (quick-response) codes.  While not yet part of the mainstream here in the U.S., in Europe and Asia these codes are an everyday technology for consumers and retailers, and our research tells us it won’t be long before that’s also the case here.

Think of QR codes as the barcodes currently read by the cashier at your local grocery store.  Those codes contain product information such as pricing, sku, inventory info, etc.; scanning the info enables them to move you quickly thru checkout, and if you are part of the grocery store loyalty/discount program, then it also uploads a history of your purchases to your account.  This allows the grocery chain to provide you with special offers related to the types of purchases you make, it helps them see how often you visit their store, and it helps them with inventory/purchasing management.

QR codes are the same thing – but these are scannable by cell phones – and any company can put whatever information inside the code that they would like.  Read the article below for a more detailed overview of QR codes and their potential use for retailers.


QR codes: Building a mobile loyalty program beyond key tags

By Jeff Weidauer for RetailCustomerExperience.com

The Nielsen Company recently predicted that smart phones will overtake “feature phones” (those without a keyboard and internet access) by next year. Most business people are already carrying an iPhone, Blackberry, or one of the many Windows Mobile smart phones; the rest of the population isn’t far behind. In fact, while smart phones started as a business tool, two-thirds of new buyers are personal users.

Mobile coupons have already begun to make inroads into what was once the domain of the venerable paper version; there are more sites to find and download mobile coupons now than one can reasonably visit. While these coupons don’t require a smart phone, viewing and scanning them is certainly easier on the increased screen real estate the smart phone platform offers.

If you’re a retailer, the logical question is, “What’s next?” The answer: QR codes.

Also known as 2D barcodes, or matrix codes, QR (for quick response) codes are in use throughout Europe and Asia, and thanks to the growth of smart phones, they are beginning to make their way to the United States. QR codes are essentially a way to link online content to a mobile device.

Using a scanner — numerous versions are available for mobile phones — the shopper scans the code and is redirected to a website, or a video, or some other content that the creator of the code has developed. Today, you’re most likely to come across them in the United States in a magazine ad, inviting you to scan the code and be taken to a link with more information.

Retailers should be working to implement this technology as soon as possible; while QR codes are not in the mainstream today, they will be very soon. Recent research predicts that two-thirds of retailers are planning a digital mobile initiative launch before the end of this year, and many of these will include a QR code capability. Manufacturers are already planning to incorporate this technology into advertising and packaging.

Of course, there is a great deal more to the technology, but the premise is as tantalizing as it is simple: shoppers scan a barcode on the shelf edge using their mobile devices, possibly with a branded scanner that you, the retailer, provide. This scanner could, and should, be part of a complete mobile application that connects your brand to the shopper and assists her throughout the path to purchase.

Once she scans the code on the shelf, the shopper is taken to a website or some other mobile-enabled content and provided with information the retailer controls. At the same time, a retailer can collect information on the shopper, such as where and when she scanned the code, how many codes she scanned, and what actions she may have taken afterward. Interface this with a retailer’s loyalty database, and the possibilities for connecting in a meaningful manner with the best shoppers become clear.

Nearly every retailer today has some type of loyalty program. Most involve issuing a card or key tag to shoppers, and most entice shoppers to use their cards by offering temporary price reductions that are only available to card holders. From here, data are gathered and analyzed, with the intent of providing insights that allow the retailer to market more effectively to shoppers based on their purchase behavior.

Consider the possibilities if that same program is tied to shoppers via their mobile device rather than a key tag. And instead of just getting the results of shopper behavior after the fact, consider the benefits of getting in on the pre-shop planning: list-making, coupons, etc. Then follow the shopper to the store and connect with her there via QR codes at the shelf edge — codes that are unique to that store and offer benefits that are relevant to that local shopper. Then follow up with the shopper with a post-shop program that could include surveys, savings analyses to show her how much she saved, and offers for her next trip to make sure it’s to your store.

Once a retailer starts thinking beyond the key tag and becomes a part of the process rather than just looking at results after the fact, opportunities abound. With this approach a retailer is not just throwing out offers, it’s having a dialogue with its shoppers; building and maintaining a relationship that benefits both the retailer and the shopper for the long term.

The technology is available today — right now. And right now is a good time to start preparing for when the smart phone becomes the mobile device of choice. Engage shoppers today with a QR code at the shelf, and start building an overall mobile loyalty strategy that goes far beyond the key tag.

Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing for Vestcom International Inc., a provider of technological retail solutions based in Little Rock, Ark. (Photo by CoCreatr.)

Should you be interested in learning more about mobile marketing and how it can help grow your business, please review the mobile section of our website, additional mobile marketing articles within this blog, or contact us directly via the website or email at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com for a FREE initial consultation.

The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting and training firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.


1. Surprise surprise! QR codes in marketing « hotred.biz - June 19, 2011
2. Andy Lynn - December 17, 2010

Great article! QR Codes are going to sweep North America as they have around the world. The key is developing a full mobile strategy along with their implementation. Cost is a factor as well, we offer an unlimited solution that makes it a “why not?”, rather than “why?”. Scanlutions offers full strategy with their QR platform.

3. Marie C. - October 8, 2010

QR and 2D Codes are rapidly expanding; recent studies show a 700% increase in scans during 2010.

But, the dirty little secret is that QR campaigns – on both the print and mobile side, have been abysmal failures due to a general lack of planning, commitment or fundamental envisioning of the Mobile User Experience. So, consumer awareness and even demand is there, but, Brands and Agencies are dropping the ball. Big time.

The time it takes to scan, resolve and acquire the mobile experience from a Code (or even readerless option via MMS) is at least 1 minute, often 2-3. If you are taking up consumer’s time (in an exclusive content engagement via mobile), you’d better offer them something good. A “mobile video” is generally the poorest and least valuable offering, yet, agencies keep pushing this as if it’s a wonder drug.

Let’s think about it for a moment. What do people mainly do with their phones, even their smartphones?

How can Brands get in on natural, intuitive, non-invasive engagement with Users who are “on the go?”

Please, don’t try to “shrink the web” or deliver complex mobile sites or video. Think smarter.

First campaign that cracks the 1 million scan mark wins.

StrategicGrowth - October 9, 2010

Excellent comments about QR codes. Thank you.

4. craig - July 20, 2010

We actually developed our own QR Scanner on the iPhone App Store, and made it for free so that everyone can enjoy using these codes. It totally disheartened me that so many people were charging money for this new technology. Hope you guys find good use out of it. It is called QR Scanner

5. David - July 20, 2010

Great post, and very educational for the audience. ScanLife has helped launch a number of campaigns, and retail will certainly be critical in the 2nd half of the year. Key learnings – take an integrated approach all leading towards the sale. Codes from newspaper, direct mail, and even on the window can lead to engaging or exclusive content in one click. And of course, make sure your content is mobile formatted!

Feel free to take a look at some examples at http://www.flickr.com/scanlife.

6. Mark Sprague - May 9, 2010

Nice overview of how retail can use these codes. If you want to learn more, I’ve written a comprehensive technical post which can be found at: http://marksprague.wordpress.com/understanding-qr-codes/

Mark Sprague

StrategicGrowth - May 9, 2010

It’s an excellent article; I will definitely use and share your information! Thanks for including the link.

Linda Daichendt, CEO/Managing Consultant
Strategic Growth Concepts

7. Jennifer Iannuzzi - May 7, 2010

We agree with you whole-heartedly on the future of QR Codes in mobile marketing. Many big brands have begun incorporating codes into their campaigns and with great results! Our award-winning mobile application creation solution, Magmito, just announced the integration of QR Codes. Everytime a person creates and app, a QR Code is automatically generated. InTune Magazine, a publication that reaches schools across the US, recently ran a full-page ad for Sennheiser featuring a QR Code that lead to their app. We’ll soon be announcing some further integration so stay tuned!

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