Mobile Barcodes, A New Generation of Mobile Marketing

Although not as widely used in the US, mobile-barcode scanning is still gaining traction with mobile advertisers. They’re slowly realizing the potential in allowing customers the ability to scan the barcode that already exists on virtually every consumer product on the market. This, in addition to specialized barcodes placed in print advertising presents a huge opportunity.Â

Large, well known brands that produce everyday products that we all use are still spending millions of dollars on advertising, while they neglect the small UPC barcode they already place on all their products. If consumers had the ability to snap a photo of the barcode while standing in the grocery store aisle, it would turn every product that brand sold into a virtual mobile website link. What type of content that consumer receives after scanning the barcode is up to the advertiser, but could include links to WAP sites that engage the user further, product comparisons, health information about a product and so on. The possibilities are endless.Â

Imagine walking into your local grocery store and while walking the aisles and choosing products, you could snap a quick photo of the barcode on that box of cereal your considering and instantly receive a quick coupon and detailed health information. You could even quickly find out if that box of cereal is acceptable to your current diet.  Another example of a useful application would be for traditional print advertisers to incorporate a small barcode into their advertisements, that user’s could quickly snap to save information about a certain event, product, or service, they might otherwise forget quickly. Google has already shown interest in this technology for expanding it’s online advertising business. Â

Most methods currently in use in Japan and in Europe consist of a mobile application that translates the barcode into the appropriate content. Some phones produced even include a separate barcode scanning feature built in. There are plenty of open-source mobile applications that will turn any camera-enabled mobile device into a mobile barcode scanner as well. The application simply takes the photo of the barcode taken with the device’s camera and sends it to a central server to be decoded and then quickly returns the requested content to the device.Â

The problem, with most devices not having the capabilities built in, is how to get consumers to download the simple application needed to read the barcodes. Similar to proximity marketing, advertisers will have to find a way to incorporate their messages into useful, non-obtrusive content the consumer would actually want delivered to their device, instead of finding it as another obtrusive form of mobile marketing. If there could be a good incentive to downloading the application, consumers would be much more apt to adopt the technology. Also, with the use of Android and other open source OS’s and third party mobile applications, barcode scanning could easily come pre-packaged on mobile devices very soon, especially if the company behind the mobile OS (Google) wants users to have the ability pre-packaged for their own marketing efforts.