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Deciphering the visual code

QR codes enable retailers to successfully integrate a mobile commerce element into their print ad campaigns.

Retailers are constantly striving to achieve that perfect multi-channel experience, and with m-commerce set to be big in 2011, QR (Quick Response) codes could be the answer.

QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes that are read by mobile phones. The information encoded can display text on the phone, send a text message or email, or redirect the user to a url.

When customers see a QR code and take a picture of it with their mobile they are then directed to a retailer’s specific web address. Maternitywear and babywear chain Mamas & Papas will use QR codes in its spring 11 catalogue to push users to product areas on its website.

Jennie Field, senior marketing manager for clothing at Mamas & Papas, says: “Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, so it seemed the perfect cost-effective technology for us to experiment with. If successful, we plan on introducing it into our stores, giving customers the opportunity to read online reviews from other customers or watch product demonstration videos.”

Marks & Spencer recently attracted customers to its new mobile-optimised site using a QR code on its ‘Shop Your Way’ promotion publicising its multichannel capabilities in December, while designer brand Calvin Klein used QR codes on huge billboards in New York and LA with the strapline ‘Get It Uncensored’. Passers-by could take a picture of the QR code to view a 40-second commercial featuring top female models.

The issue with QR codes is that they can only be read by smartphones, but as these become more common, QR codes will become more effective. Already hugely popular in Japan, QR codes are sure to catch on in the UK and it’s a great way for retailers to capture new data from print advertising, where the response can sometimes be hard to measure. Setting up a QR code is relatively simple, and it pushes customers to a website and really allows them to shop on the move.

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