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Mobile Barcode Scan Usage is On the Upswing


According to a recent eMarketer report, the creative application of mobile barcodes -- such as QR codes -- are a promising new tool for retail marketers that need to activate and measure the impact of static media, in-store displays and product packaging.

"Mobile barcodes hold promise for marketers as a mechanism for activating other media and providing a bridge between the physical and digital worlds," said Noah Elkin, eMarketer principal analyst.

But they also present challenges, including fragmentation between open and proprietary barcode formats and the requirement that consumers download a dedicated application to read the codes.

In Japan, where QR codes originated, 2-D barcode usage is very common. In other parts of the world, usage is on the upswing. So, where is the market growth to date?

According to 3GVision, an Israel-based provider of 1-D and 2-D barcode solutions, the top five countries in terms of barcode scanning growth in Q1 2011 were the U.S., UK, Netherlands, Spain and Canada.

For marketing applications, mobile barcodes hold potential for nearly every industry that needs to impart more information to consumers. And, with applications for retailers, to consumer products brands, to travel marketers, it's difficult to find industries that are not experimenting with mobile barcodes.

Given the emphasis on activating traditional media and enhancing the in-store shopping experience, publishers and retailers, not surprisingly, are leading the way across all markets.

A February 2011 market study by Vision Critical found that 65 percent of U.S smartphone users had seen a QR code. They most likely saw it on product packaging -- indicating where marketers may get the most benefit from using these barcodes.

People tend to apply barcode scanning to obtain information about products or services -- as well as gaining access to coupons and discounts. But there's an apparent difference between consumers who are merely aware of the barcode and have tried scanning them vs. those who scan them on a regular basis.

"Marketers need to work with their carrier and handset partners to capitalize on awareness of 2-D barcodes and push consumers toward adoption and repeat usage," said Elkin. "At this early stage, the more information the better about what content barcodes will activate, how to download the appropriate reader and how to activate the code."

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