Closing the Gap: A Look at Barcode and Smart-phone Interactions

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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:

  • First, the incorporation of QR-Codes is a huge step towards a permission marketing-based approach that changes the way that companies communicate to the customer from the classic model of interruption marketing, which has been so prevalent in most advertising for the best part of the last century.
  • Second, and corollary to the first, is that the communication produced by this marketing becomes much more interactive in a physical and real way. Customers can respond to this call to action on the spot, which transforms the experience and brings it that much closer to the idea of a conversation.
  • Third, since the access and use of these QR-Codes is completely traceable, there is a wealth of marketing-relevant information that can be used to create a tailored experience for the customer – this means that the interaction can take into account variables such as location and time of day, as well as many others, to create a message that is custom built for the customer.

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.

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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).


| August 31st, 2010 | Posted in Concepts, Quick introduction |

3 Responses to “Closing the Gap: A Look at Barcode and Smart-phone Interactions”

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