The other day I received a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail. As usual, I started going through and bookmarking pages to note items I want, but will never actually buy, when I spied a barcode-like symbol that interupted my fantasy shopping.
Hmm, very intersting. So this morning I went looking for more information. Turns out, the symbol I saw is a QR Code, which, according to Wikipedia, is a matrix barcode readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with cameras and smartphones. Created by a Toyota subsidiary back in 1994 for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR Codes are now used in commercial tracking and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (known as mobile tagging).
Marketers like Pottery Barn showcase amazing creativity in their uses for these codes. In the catalog I received the other night, the QR code linked to a video about how a particular chair was made. They also provide room views and allow the user to interact with products. Great idea since I don’t always want to go to the store to buy something, but I also might want a better view before I make a purchase decision. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks and its gaining in popularity. PC World just included them in their 22 Best Android Apps article for their ability to scan codes and then do comparison shopping for pricing.
Pottery Barn isn’t the only company using QR Codes. Once I started researching them, I found that a few months ago Calvin Klein replaced some of its billboards (in NY and LA), with a giant QR code with the tease to “Get it Uncensored”. The code links to an exclusive 40-second commercial.
Raytheon recently introduced the technology, which they call “augmented reality” at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show. According to a blog post by Lucy Flynn, VP of global marketing communications at Raytheon, “We actually see it as the future of trade shows, because it engages our customers and educates them about our technology during and after the show; reduces the cost of shipping big products and contingents of experts; and transports the show experience to customers, officials and journalists who aren’t attending the show because of budget and other restraints.”
Other ways the codes can be used include:
- Businesses can affix these stickers in their store windows or in other areas and customers can scan the barcode with their mobile phones. The code will take the user to the business’ Places Page where they can read reviews, find coupons, and star or rate the business.
- Restaurants can include menus and other information on QR codes on their front window that can be scanned, read and kept.
- A few people are even getting QR code tattoos that can provide information about them when scanned. Makes for an unforgettable business card.
- Artists are even using them in their work. Since 2006 the Italian artist Fabrice de Nola uses QR codes in oil paintings or embedded in photographs.
Still, Pottery Barn is doing the best job of all catalog marketers of leveraging this tool to enhance their brand and the customer experience. I imagine it will take my fantasy shopping to a whole new level.