QR codes - back on the block for retail innovation?
Have you noticed the recent resurgence of QR codes? The once much-maligned links are appearing across a range of mobile apps. Sometimes appearing in funky new formats, and often being used to link between offline and online worlds, as well as device to device communications.
Codes that close the loop and drive retail innovation
Facebook has been experimenting with virtual barcodes since 2012, when it launched ‘Offers’ a free couponing service. The feature used a special barcode and promo code that can either be scanned in-store shop or entered online upon checkout.
Now the social networking giant is enlisting the help of QR codes to further ‘close the loop’ in physical stores and create better connected retail journeys. Its latest feature ‘Facebook Rewards’ acts as a mobile loyalty program for users where every person is assigned a personalised QR code to be scanned at shops, instead of having a new code to scan every time.
Facebook Rewards, does everyone win?
Facebook has already been running tests on the new programme, allowing users to enable the Facebook app to collect and redeem rewards when they make a purchase at a participating store. The feature has benefits for users, merchants as well as, of course, the social network itself. Key benefits for users centre on discounts, while stores have a way to drive footfall and use Facebook’s data and contextual marketing tools to target potential or existing shoppers. The social network is getting a rare and valuable view into offline retail activity and, if it gains traction with FB’s huge user base and retail partners could become a very valuable closed loop online-to-offline marketing tool.
Cool for codes
Major competitor, Snapchat already has its own method of driving users into stores and tracking their visits. The photo sharing platforms “Snap to Store” program gives brands the opportunity to buy Sponsored Geofilters ads that Snapchat users can then overlay onto their photos and videos when they’re nearby. Tracking info is then shared back to the business through the program. Snapchat has most notably been using QR codes for profiles since January 2015. A solution that makes it easy for friends to add each other without typing in usernames. Similarly to the way Facebook gives businesses the ‘Like’ button that’s connected directly to their Facebook page, Snapchat gives websites their own QR snapcodes. Users can create a unique Snapcode for a website, which will then open inside Snapchat when scanned with app’s camera. This is a good way for retailers to promote their brand without relying on their own retail app as they remain inside the platform.
Pinterest puts QR codes in the picture
Meanwhile Pinterest is also looking to QR capabilities to boost its visual search technology. The online discovery platform is gearing up for up for a rebrand campaign in efforts to build its brand image as something more than a social network, redirecting focus on product discovery. Pinterest has just announced upgraded visual search that allows users to scan QR codes that link directly back to brands’ websites as well as Pinterest boards.
Treasure Hunts and Track shares
The Great Singapore Sale (GSS) is also experimenting with using QR codes for connected stores through its new retail app called GoSpree. The app is free and acts as a “super mall” platform where customers choose discounts they’re interested in and the app compiles the discounts onto a virtual card that can be used at physical stores. Each GSS retailer will receive a unique QR code that will be displayed around the mall. Users can scan the special code on the GoSpree app to unlock deals, a bit like a QR code treasure hunt.
Spotify is also getting in on the QR code act with their own brand of funky screen codes. These let users scan each others screens (and posters) to get quick access to playlists.
Got the code, got the secret?
So, why now for QR codes, after being left out so long in the cold? Key to their rehabilitation seems to be the fact that the functionality is being embedded within existing services (not delivered via stand-alone apps), and fuelling their use is a desire to create increasingly integrated customers journeys, especially cross-channel journeys, where the codes are creating quick and easy online-to-offline pathways.
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