The Christmas festivities are in full swing for many, and our efforts to find the most appropriate gifts for loved ones is in full flow. With competition amongst marketers and brands particularly fierce, consumers are looking for help on what to choose and where to get it, while marketers are looking for that additional edge to capture their attention. Mobile devices are now providing that edge, more than ever before, by increasingly influencing our purchasing decisions.
The potential of mobile marketing in the UK market is clearly evident. The industry trade body, the GSM Association, carried out research over the Christmas period last year that showed that more than 25 per cent of the UK population, some 16m people, accessed the internet from their mobile phones.
The mobile internet is now faster, more flexible, simpler and time efficient, it is the next big tool to extend brand value. Figures released at the recent Ad:tech New York show, indicate that mobile advertising revenue will reach $3.5bn worldwide this year, and by 2015, revenue is expected to have increased seven-fold to around $24bn.
With this in mind, retailers are using mobile advertising to generate brand awareness, drive traffic to stores, and increase customer loyalty. Traditional methods of enticing consumers still play a significant role in encouraging consumers to part with their cash, but with the explosion of social media and growing accessibility of smart mobile devices, brands are exploring new and innovative ways to engage with consumers and increase their revenues. The interactivity and connectivity of mobile marketing is allowing brands to engage in a level of interaction that is both relevant and meaningful to consumers. Shoppers now have a tool to research products, find deals, locate stores and products and buy, in the palm of their hands
One of the rapidly emerging mobile marketing tools is 2D barcodes. Already, they are being used on everything from billboards and posters to print ads, product packaging and business cards, adding an interactive dimension to traditional advertising media. 2D codes are now being incorporated into television, since many people have their mobiles next to them while watching TV. What better way to learn more than to scan the code off the screen and be able to order the product advertised, or learn more about it?
2D mobile barcodes are also becoming an excellent tool for linking in-store and online retail experiences, to improve the shopping experience and make it more convenient for consumers. Imagine you are in a store looking at printers; you can scan the 2D barcode on the shelf related to a particular product to learn more about its features. Or, you could scan a mobile barcode on a print ad to gain further information about the price of the product, get a coupon and even buy the product online from your mobile device. Alternatively, you could research a product online and scan a barcode to download more information to your mobile device and take that information with you to the store.
As the consumer benefits of mobile barcodes become well established, major brands are taking advantage by launching campaigns. These include Calvin Klein, The Gap, Kellogg’s, Ford, and Toys R Us, to name but a few. For these brands, there are also additional benefits in regard to measurement and analytics which help to shape future marketing campaigns. Marketers can collect information and better target communications, as consumers select whether to opt in to receive information from their favourite brands by taking part in competitions and promotions.
Despite the consumer benefits of barcodes, however, adoption levels remain relatively low. Awareness is growing amongst consumers, but widespread adoption is being hampered by the technologies underpinning this innovative means of marketing. Currently, there are multiple vendors developing competing technologies to read barcodes. As a result of this fragmented marketplace, consumers may sometimes experience difficulties when scanning barcodes from vendors that are incompatible with the reader they have just downloaded.
Consumers currently face difficulties in recognising that barcodes from different suppliers need different barcode readers to activate them, and really, they should not have to recognise the differences. There are for example, a number of different codes include QR (Quick Response), Data Matrix and Aztec codes, plus proprietary codes like that from Microsoft. This mish-mash of technologies from different mobile barcode vendors is becoming a major hindrance to the universal consumer adoption of barcodes. If a consumer scans a barcode and nothing happens, they may abandon the technology and their prospective purchases.
In order to overcome the issues and drive universal consumer adoption Neustar, has created the first global 2D barcodes registry and clearinghouse to enable connectivity among all of the players in the mobile barcode ecosystem. Over time, this will ensure that when a consumer scans a code, it always work, regardless of the code format or the reader application, so long as it is based on open standards. Also, when advertisers launch a barcode campaign, the information they are delivering will have the potential to reach everyone interested in it. Brands are interested in scale, so the promotion of an open and interoperable market approach will empower the mobile ecosystem, driving the retail industry forward, and ultimately, ensuring that revenues are increased.
Importantly, the Neustar solution ensures that technology has less prominence in the barcode revolution moving forward, so that marketers can focus on the real benefits of using them as part of the marketing mix. The proposition needs to be less about communicating “to” consumers and more on interacting “with” consumers. If the technology works consistently and the campaign is managed properly, consumers can expect instant access to targeted content, generating sales and brand loyalty. If not, then the results will be ineffective and damaging to future campaigns. An interoperable centralized approach also supports additional targeting and metadata, sourced by multiple parties, and added in real time in support of the campaign, irrespective of the network, the scanner or the barcode campaign management company.
So, this much is true to say: mobility enables marketers to expand their campaigns across multiple touchpoints, and combine awareness, interest, desire and action, all in one experience with one device. If we establish trusted, neutral, addressing and policy management, authentication and identity management between barcode technologies, then marketers will continue to do a better job of educating consumers on the true value of barcodes. Only then will top brands begin to see the true value of this powerful new medium, making shopping – whether it’s online or in-store – an easier, more enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Diane Strahan is vice president of mobile and registry services at Neustar