Barcodes have traditionally been used in the retail industry to improve business infrastructure by creating more consistent control mechanisms that increase the speed and accuracy of the check-out process. With the rise in popularity of the smart-phone, barcodes have jumped from their retail origins and are now being used to communicate a whole plethora of information to these portable devices and, by extension, to their users. The name for this technology is QR-Codes (Quick Response Codes), which are specially built visual codes that can transmit all kinds of complex information to portable devices.
The use of QR-Codes has had a strong impact on the customer experience in three key areas:
Case Study: Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein has been at the cutting edge of QR-Code use in the past few years. The company recently launched a new billboard campaign based entirely on the QR-Code. The billboards contained nothing more than a QR-Code and the tag-line
Get It Uncensored, which enticed customers with its reference to the forbidden and sent out a clear call to action that ended up being highly successful.
The Traditional Barcode
Even with the advent of the QR-Code, barcodes are so ubiquitous that we are likely to continue seeing them for a very long time. Because of their widespread use in the retail industry (and their cheap production costs) there is already a whole sub-set of companies that offer products that allow some smart-phones to interact with them using visual recognition techniques that take advantage of the cameras in these devices to capture the information held in any type of barcode: from the one on the back of the cereal box to the thermal labels used with some clothing.
Since the information contained on barcode labels is standardised, however, this software needs to rely on external databases to transmit more data or include a dynamic element in its features. Products such as the GoodGuide can provide access to a multitude of databases that let the consumer scan a product and then compare it with others of similar ilk, as well as see a product rating based on a number of variables (in particular those that deal with the environmental and health impacts of the different items).