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A new dimension to marketing


Scannable 2-D bar codes tap the power of smartphones

Across the country, and across a broad spectrum of industries, advertisements sporting mobile bar codes are becoming an increasingly familiar sight. QR codes — quick response codes — are the most common of a few types of bar codes that consumers can scan using a pre-downloaded smartphone app. The bar codes may appear on anything from posters to packaging to catalogs and, when scanned, lead consumers to a specific set of information, often through a mobile website. For retailers, QR codes have become a useful marketing tool, allowing companies to convey a wide range of product information to consumers using only the space of one small, black-and-white patterned square. 


Quikrete is one example of a company riding the QR code bandwagon. The Georgia-based concrete company recently began printing the mobile bar codes on its shelf tags and bin tags, to provide customers with more information about Quikrete products. Each product has its own unique QR code to provide more specific information. 


“We wanted to enhance the information we provide at point of sale,” said Frank Owens, VP marketing at Quikrete. 


By scanning the Quikrete QR codes with their smartphones, customers can now access 18 how-to videos on the company’s mobile website, with information about a variety of projects using Quikrete concrete products. Following the videos, the QR codes also lead consumers to project directions, a quantity calculator and shopping list for the project. 


Numerous other companies are using mobile bar codes in a similar way. Home Depot introduced QR codes on a number of products in stores nationwide this past March, with how-to information, videos and customer ratings about each product. Lowe’s uses Microsoft tags, a more colorful but less common type of mobile bar code, scannable by smartphones, which work the same way as QR codes to provide product information. 


“There has been tremendous acceptance, whether by the retailer, big-box home improvement stores or independents,” Owens said. 


According to Owens, the QR codes are extremely helpful in educating customers and helping them to feel more comfortable with their product selection. He added that the training of store personnel is always a concern, and that in some cases, store employees may not always have all the information a customer needs about a specific product. 


“We’ve definitely seen an increase in QR code use over the last three or four months,” said Mike Elias of Lowcountry Marketing Consultants. The South Carolina marketing company specializes in online and mobile marketing, including the use of QR codes. “QR codes are more cost-effective and efficient, and they allow you to cram a lot of information into a small space.” 


Companies using mobile bar codes, such as QR codes, have the advantage of being able to track exactly how many times consumers have scanned their products. 


Owens said that at Quikrete, being able to track customers’ use of QR codes has been useful. 


“We can monitor every hit, and know what stores the hits are coming from and how often. It gives us an idea of what projects are on the customer’s mind.” 

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