Goodbye response generation, hello dialogue creation

By Mike Wehrs

The technology world is full of people who talk in their own secret code with a new buzzword every minute and the marketing world isn’t much different. In 2013, these two groups will increasingly be talking the same language and the concept of engagement will be at the heart of the conversation.

This past year, the drive to create consumer engagement has seen the marketers moving in, and really beginning to come to grips with technologies such as NFC, QR Codes, LBS, and augmented reality apps.  It is a trend that will accelerate in 2013 and the reason why is because these technologies allow marketers to create genuine dialogue as opposed to simply generating responses. Marketers are seeking - and the technologists are delivering – mechanisms that stimulate genuine two-way dialogue between brands and their consumers.   

With the continuing surge in the consumer adoption of smartphones, technologists are putting the ultimate engagement tool in the hands of billions of consumers across the world.  That’s why, in 2013, we expect brands, marketers and retailers to adopt what technologists and marketers alike will refer to as a Mobile Engagement Platform.  

The evidence for this is clear and was confirmed during the recent peak Christmas shopping season.  In a two-week period, and simply measuring the traffic we see on our Scanlife platform, there was a 70% increase in the number of 2D bar codes scanned in 2012 compared to 2011.   Overall, taking all types of bar codes into account, our platform alone handled more than three million scans in that two-week period – something like three scans every single second of every single day for two solid weeks around the clock.

During that period, our platform also allowed consumers to “like” their favorite scans.   Campaigns from companies such as Best Buy and Samsung proved very popular with consumers – as did, perhaps not surprisingly, the QR code tempting last minute shoppers to view the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and catalogue.

Today, with a fully-featured Mobile Engagement Platform, marketers have the ability not just to measure consumer engagement with detailed analytics, but to use that information to adjust content messaging in real-time, increase its relevancy, and turn consumer interest into consumer action.

These Mobile Engagement Platforms will enable one code to trigger a session that can initiate an app download, begin a registration process, and then later – on a subsequent scan - begin issuing loyalty rewards.  These techniques all encourage repeat consumer interaction.  In the world of marketing, creating that kind of “on-demand” interaction right in the consumer’s hand at the right time, and in right place, represents a marketing holy grail.

What’s more, our research shows that “scanners” are consumers who are willing to interact.   A study of some 200 different QR codes hosted on our platform, with each code generating thousands of scans, showed that some 62 per cent of the scans resulted in a subsequent action – for example a registration, an app download, or a click through for more information.  

The numbers make it clear – mobile consumers that scan, are not simply responding, they are prepared to interact with brands and are highly motivated.  So now it is up to the brands and marketers to provide experiences that are relevant, valuable and encourage dialogue.  

It is clear to me that the ROI of mobile engagement will be most quickly achieved by those brands that use the intelligence gathered through the platforms to optimize their mobile experiences and encourage consumers to interact with their brand again and again.   

Of course, the go-ahead brands and their creative agencies have already recognized that mobile engagement enables them to connect directly with their audience and that mobile technologies – such as QR codes – allow them not just to engage, but to create dialogue and manage the interaction learning more about their customers in the process.

Take iconic brands such as Home Depot, HP, and Coca-Cola – they have already demonstrated that smartphones can spark engagement, generate interaction, and capture information about consumers like no other marketing tool available.

For example, Home Depot wanted to give customers more dynamic information on all of their products so it deployed hundreds of codes on in-store signage, in newspaper circulars, at events and many other places.   They offer video demos, useful tips and even a “buy it now” option.  

HP is using QR Code technology to educate shoppers directly from the packaging of their printers.  One scan of the code and shoppers are engaging with HP by learning about the product, its accessories, ink requirements and even product reviews―all helping to make it easier for shoppers to buy HP products.

Meanwhile in Spain, Coca-Cola placed Scanbuy QR Codes on cans to promote their involvement and sponsorship of the 2102 European Championships.  The first time a consumer scanned a campaign code it would trigger a registration; however, the adaptive response technology within the platform delivered a different experience when the code was scanned a second or subsequent time – cutting out the registration process and linking the consumer direct to the latest content.

What’s particularly interesting about this campaign is that when the championships ended, the QR Codes remained active but consumers were taken to a new promotion.  This extended the life of the campaign for Coke to include the cans still on the shelves and in homes long after the football had finished.  Only a campaign powered by a mobile engagement platform can deliver this type of flexibility.

I believe that, during 2013, these types of integrated mobile engagement platforms - incorporating all the most popular mobile technologies and makes and models of mobile phone - will become the beating heart of the most advanced, sophisticated and effective retail consumer campaigns.  

These campaigns will not only give brands and retailers unprecedented access to information about what their consumers are doing in real-time, they will also deliver the means to respond and engage effectively, creating real dialogue with their consumers,  and getting everybody talking in the same language.

Mike Wehrs is CEO of Scanbuy, the global leader in QR codes that provide cloud-based mobile connection solutions that bring products and information to life. The company is based in New York and its ScanLife app is used by people worldwide to discover new information and is available for all major platforms.