Christmas shopping with a little help from QR codes – 2012 will be the year of retail innovation on steroids

Whoa we have another interest rate cut just in time to give our Christmas shopping a boost. Good news!

Talking of shopping, is anyone else seeing a period of innovation on steroids? Buy face to face, buy online and now redeem gifts without even leaving your home. It’s all becoming easier than ever. The team and I were chatting the other day on the sheer scale of the innovation we are seeing in retail and particularly the phenomenon of QR codes.

This Christmas, shoppers will be able to get QR code gift tags that allow them to scan the code, record a personal voice message, and then place the tag to their gift. Personally I’ve always thought they were something from Back to the Future and if you look too hard you could get lost in them — you know, those 3D, cryptic looking things with black modules arranged in a square patter on a white background. Advertisers started placing them on billboards, magazines and shop fronts as early as 2000, but today their use is becoming mainstream. I’m expecting we may even be bar coded ourselves in 2012. Has anyone received a business card with a QR code on it yet? I have.

For us as business owners and marketers, the digital and mobile platforms provide greater improvements in time-to-market and how quickly offers can be delivered and redeemed. In the traditional medium, campaigns run for a set period based on the print cycle and distribution channel — this restriction doesn’t apply in the mobile and digital space. Methods are changing and it’s up to us to keep up.

Back to QR codes, what exactly are they? QR or Quick Response codes were invented in the early 1990s to create a new system of encoding confidential information. The QR codes hold a larger capacity than the ID barcodes. The QR codes provide greater security and are anti-counterfeit. They are free for you and I to use, so as consumers we don’t pay anything. They provide a direct link to a web page where you can read, redeem and download offers. A survey found the 73 percent of consumers have used QR Codes, among teenagers the figure rises to 90 percent.

Quaetapo, my colleague and Chief Operating Manager digital strategist extraordinaire at Shop A Docket explains, “We are under constant pressure to innovate while we see dramatic changes in the way consumers look for incentives to purchase, along with the range of technologies we use to access those incentives. To remain involved (and ahead), we are finding our retailers are constantly looking at new ways to deliver the range of products available to advertisers and consumers.”

He continues, “I’m seeing a great deal of innovation in the use of QR codes — such as eBay’s pop-up Christmas Store in London and JC Penny’s gift tags.”

With the boom of technology, almost every campaign today has its own mini-site or ‘viral’ element where consumers can find detailed information, additional promotions and usually giveaways beyond what’s available in the traditional way. The use of smartphones with the bonus of QR codes, means today, we are using digital devices to navigate the changing, dynamic terrain of information by the second. The codes are being placed on billboards, in magazines, shop fronts and in your local hot stops to enhance website traffic and present greater information to those seeking it.

So where do QR codes get used?

In 2008, Telstra announced it would pre-package a QR code reader with its NextG mobiles. In 2008 and 2009, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney experimented with using QR codes on its exhibition labels, Facebook produces T-shirts and bags with personalised codes that new friends can scan to add the code-owner as a friend and McDonalds in Japan places codes on hamburger wrappers. Even media is on the band wagon and the Sydney Morning Herald has daily QR codes on page 2 providing a link to the five most popular stories in the paper.

Quaetapo concludes, “For Shop A Docket, we’ve had a digital presence for over 10 years and this has been a terrific compliment to our traditional docket business. The number of our consumers accessing dockets online has steadily increased and our need to modernise the digital offering and expand this into the mobile platform is a natural evolution of the demand from visitors to the site. It allows us to provide new products more suited to the digital space, such as time-based offers, premium offers and social coupons.”

For business owners and marketers, the digital and mobile platforms provide greater improvements in the ability to deliver product to market. Looks like 2012 will be the year of retail innovation on steroids. How will you be innovating?

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