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The Elite Edge

"I have years of leading project development teams, and Elite's staff has been among the most "can do" I've ever worked with.

Steve Taylor

Bloomington Hospital

QR Barcodes: An Innovative Spin On Classic Technology 

Mobile phones have quickly become a particularly attractive ad medium for marketers. Take a look at the latest cell phone usage figures, and itís not hard to understand why: according to Forrester Researchís 2009 technology benchmark survey, nearly five out of every six U.S. households now owns at least one mobile phone device, spurred on by young families who reported phone ownership at a whopping 93%. Plus while consumers generally only spend a portion of each day watching TV, perusing newspapers and magazines, checking mail or spending time on the web, mobile owners are almost constantly attached at the hip with their phones (sometimes quite literally).

Then thereís the impressive boost provided by the ever-increasingly pervasiveness of Internet-enabled smartphones: providing marketers with the opportunity to present a truly integrated campaign that links text messages and email together with personalized online landing pages for exceptionally targeted and powerful communication.

The Challenge: Usability Roadblocks
An influential technology with that kind of near-universal saturation generally gets the salivary glands of marketing execs working overtime. So itís a bit of a curiosity that a medium with mobile marketingís ample promise still lags significantly behind online, print and television advertising in overall spend. But the reality is that mobile advertising still faces some considerable challenges that hamstring its usefulness as an effective marketing technology. For one, mobile phones are eligible to be included in the national Do-Not-Call registry. That means mobile marketing is strictly a permission-based, opt-in activity. Serious fines and related penalties await marketers who donít get the approval of consumers to deliver text-message based promotional offers.

Another critical usability roadblock? Technological restrictions. Many mobile-focused campaigns rely on long, complicated URLs to drive consumers online for special content, offers and sign-ups. However, that requires a QWERTY-compliant keypad, which, despite the burgeoning smartphone market, a majority of mobile devices in the U.S. still donít support (only a paltry 18-25% of all cell phones sold in the U.S. come equipped with QWERTY keypads).

The Solution: Mobile Tagging with Web-Enabled Barcodes
Mobile marketing practically oozes untapped potential. The ability to upgrade traditional mass media and print-based direct response advertising with the immediacy and interactivity provided by mobile and online marketing opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. The challenge is finding a way for consumers to easily opt into receiving special offers or exclusive web-content in a way thatís compatible with most mobile devices. Thatís where 2D barcode technology can help. Yes, we said barcode technology. Obviously this is no science-fiction-friendly, pie-in-the-sky, technology: 2D barcodes have been used in a retail setting to track purchase data for nearly sixty years.

What is new and exciting is how this decidedly twentieth century technology has been adapted to solve a very contemporary marketing challenge. And itís all thanks to the ubiquity of digital camera technology in todayís cellular phones. Itís called mobile tagging and it works like this: the consumer comes into contact with a printed 2D barcode (in a newspaper ad, corporate flyer, direct mail piece, billboard or just about anything else that can support ink). Using the camera phone on his or her mobile device, the consumer snaps a picture of the 2D barcode.

This image is then fed into a reader installed on the phone that decodes the content and provides the user with a text message with special offers or access to a related landing site that presents unique content, digital coupons or a related promotion. What are the appeals of 2D barcode-enabled mobile marketing campaigns? Besides being ultra-cool, mobile tagging has the following benefits:

1). An Integrated Approach
2-D barcodes work in conjunction with mobile and online technology to greatly narrow the gap between physical advertising and the digital world, providing consumers with a far richer interaction with your brand. By linking printed marketing collateral to the consumerís mobile device, and then the mobile device to the Internet, you can greatly enhance the ability of your mass-media advertising to directly contribute to new sales and repeat business.

In effect, 2D barcodes enable mass media to convert new business and generate tangible ROI in much the same way that direct response marketing does. The result is a robust, integrated experience for the consumer that spans several brand touchpoints and provides targeted, relevant reasons as to why they should choose to opt-in to your campaign or make a purchase from your business.

2). Innovative Data Capture
Although small, 2D barcodes pack some serious storage space. Up to 4,000 alphanumeric characters can be stored within each barcode. That wealth of storage capacity lends itself to some pretty unique applications for data capture. Like what? Location-based data can be uploaded directly from the barcode reader to provide a truly robust user profile: stuff like phone number, time of day and location can be easily pinpointed, enabling marketers to serve up geographically targeted promotions (say a buy-one-entrťe-get-one-free coupon from a restaurant chain coupled with directions to the nearest location).

To boost your direct mail efforts, a consumerís demographic profile could be linked to a 2D barcode on a direct mail coupon that is scanned at the point-of-purchase when redeemed to provide better insight into campaign success and to track loyalty. Or a barcode could be placed on the back of a business card or company brochure that, when scanned, creates a personalized vCard that automatically uploads contact information into a CRM package.

3). Better ROI Accountability
Letís face it: one of the major shortcomings of mass-media advertising is the inability of marketers to quantify its exact impact for ROI accountability. Sure, youíve got stats on reach and frequency, but just exactly what direct impact does that billboard have on sales? And yes URL tie-ins help, but unless consumers have instant access to a computer or a QWERTY-enabled smartphone at their fingertips, thereís a real risk of sacrificing interest and page views.

Barcode technology not only enables print ads to be scanned by a picture phone anytime from anywhere, itís massive storage capacity allows for quick and detailed data capture: automatically routing statistics into a CRM or marketing management package that helps you build a robust user profile, provide timely, targeted follow-up and track response/conversion throughout the marketing lifecycle.

4). Ridiculously Creative Applications
Besides print advertisements and corporate marketing materials, 2D barcodes can be printed on just about anything to provide a little extra promotional oomph. Event tickets, product packaging, envelopes, t-shirts, coffee mugs and calendars are all potential applications. Even barcodes on edible items like cupcakes or produce are possible. Thereís a wealth of creative ways for you to use 2D barcodes in conjunction with print media to help guide users to opt-in to your integrated marketing pipeline.

The Wrap Up: Elite's Here to Help
2D barcodes are a great example of a vintage technology thatís getting a fresh makeover thanks to emerging mobile technology. And mobile tagging isnít just spiffy technology for technologyís sake. It goes hand-in-hand with some pretty impressive marketing results too, stuff like helping you capture leads and generate user opt-in to your promotional campaigns, providing consumers with a robust, integrated, branded marketing experience and enabling tighter tracking (and ROI accountability) of your mass media efforts.

Ready to get the full scoop on how 2D barcodes can enhance the marketability of your print advertising and traditional corporate collateral? Simply call us toll free at 1.800.276.6456 or email info@eliteps.com to set up a consultation with one of our experience print experts.

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