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QR Codes – Will They Revolutionise Retailing?

May 30th, 2012

Category: ERP Enterprise Resource Planning, Online Retailing, Retail Business Tips, Retail Innovations

QR Code scanning technologyImagine this: You’re stuck on the phone with a customer. The other sales person has stepped out for lunch when suddenly a shopper walks in and heads straight to an item on display. You really want to serve him but the customer on the phone is important too. You glance over and see that the guy has lifted the tag and looked at the style name, product description and price.

Lucky for you, there’s something more imprinted on the price tag, a square-shaped barcode called a QR code. The customer sees this, grabs his smart phone and aims it at the QR code.

Suddenly he’s viewing a page on your website. It contains images of the exact product showcasing available colours and a more detailed product description. Additionally the benefits are described relating to durability, support and quality of material. Product guarantee is also displayed. Next to the guarantee is a short customer testimonial.

Finally you hang up the phone and attend to the customer. You smile and ask them if they’d like some help. They shake their head and say, “nope, got all the info on your site. Really like the quality of your product. So…if I pay cash today, can you give me a good deal?”

It may sound a bit far-fetched that a customer doesn’t need to be persuaded by your great face-to-face sales techniques to part with their hard-earned money. But it’s most likely the way of future retailing.

QR Codes – What are they and how do they work?

QR (Quick Response) codes were originally invented in Japan over a decade ago. QR codes have been described as ‘a barcode on steroids’ because they’re capable of holding and sharing much larger amounts of data than a regular barcode.

You may want to read the Wiki QR code description which sums up that ‘the dissemination of smart phones “has put a barcode reader in everyone’s pocket”. What this means is that QR codes are readable by mobile phones and thus when a consumer uses their phone to scan your generated QR code, it will trigger an action like taking them to a page on your website or letting them download a file to their phone, like a product catalogue, for example.

While QR codes have been actively used in Japan and more commonly used in Europe they haven’t as yet hit a mass consciousness within Australia or even the US. Recently however, there has been increased Interest and use of QR codes both within the retail sector and in other industries. Walk around most shopping malls or city streets and take a second look at the large standalone digital advertisement posters. If you look at the bottom right hand corner, you’ll see that some of them display a square-shaped barcode like the image above. And according to Inside Retail GPT Group’s Melbourne Central shopping centre is set to introduce QR code advertising throughout the mall, promoting QR code use to consumers with a 28-metre hoarding at the entrance that says: “Like it. Scan it. Buy it.”

While QR codes have been around for some time, they are still considered an innovative and cutting edge concept as uptake has been slow until recently. At the same time, QR codes is a mature technology and thus associated risks and issues are minimal compared to new technology. This means QR codes are easy to generate and use.

Generating QR codes for your retail business

There are many websites that will generate QR codes for a text string that you key in. The text string would normally be a web address on your own website. The generated QR code could then be printed as part of some promotional material. But this would be a very laborious process if you wanted to generate QR codes for every item you sell. Advanced retail ERP systems like CONTROL allow for the simple generation of QR codes for stock items. These could be included in printed POS tickets, flyers, shelf labels, etc.

How do your customers’ mobile phones read the QR code?

Most smart phones these days have built-in QR code readers, while for the iPhone it only takes a minute to find and install a QR reader app. When a customer walks into your store, they simply grab their phone, select the QR code reader app and scan the QR code. This affords you a potentially fast and efficient way to promote your products. A YouTube video of a live demonstration illustrates this well.

Australian smartphone uptake set to encourage use of QR codes

While there is still some way to go to promote QR codes both to retailers and consumers, QR codes are set to take off in 2012. This has a lot to do with Australia’s recent and rapidly growing enthusiasm for smart phones with a SMH article quoting a Google study that said “behind Singapore, Australia has the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 37% and we’re also consuming more apps”. The article also mentions that “mobile internet usage by Australians also rivals that of PCs for activities like shopping.”

QR codes don’t replace common sense marketing concepts

Google the words ‘QR codes’ and you’ll see a plethora of articles and blogs on the Web. Search YouTube and you’ll find the same. There’s no doubt QR codes have great potential. However, proper ‘execution’ of QR codes is important in order to realise real benefits. For example, if someone scans a QR code you’ve stickered on one of your items in store – and they’re led to your website’s ‘Home’, or ‘About Us’ Pages, this isn’t good. They need to be directed to a specific page (called a landing page) that relates to that product, whether it’s a special promotion, a detailed product description or a video demonstrating how a product works, and so on. Utilising QR codes for marketing purposes requires the same attention and care as any promotion does. QR codes while innovative, won’t work if the marketing or information behind it isn’t relevant, specific, personalised and informative.

How much does it cost to implement QR codes into your retail marketing?

Using an advanced retail ERP system, the cost of adding a QR code to a product, poster or promotional material is negligible, and this means QR codes can provide a great Return on Investment (ROI). The next step is to educate your customers: when they walk into your stores let them know that to get detailed information or to access a special promotion on a product it’s as simple as scanning the QR code on the item with their smart phone.

With QR codes, the skies the limit

Once QR codes become ubiquitous in the retail industry the potential for their use will increase beyond providing detailed product descriptions. For example, instead of having a static shop window display, QR codes on products in your store window will take consumers to your website where they can purchase online, and where you can also upsell or cross-sell, all while they’re standing outside your closed store, and thus giving a more literal meaning to, ‘window shopping’.

The skies is really the limit when it comes to the myriad ways you can use QR codes. Watch this space for more on uses of QR codes in retailing and examples how to successfully execute them.

For more information on QR codes and CONTROL contact us today or call 1300 646 536.