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Apparel retailers need to look beyond the QR code

By George Hoffman

Over the last six months, hundreds of magazine articles and press releases have been issued regarding QR technology.

As a result, it is no wonder that QR technology is finally hitting the radar screens of many apparel retailers in the United States and Europe.

However, the process of determining how best to use QR technology as an in-store merchandising tool is proving to be a challenging one for many apparel retailers.

Query QR
One common problem thus far in retailers’ evaluation process is that too much emphasis is being placed on the QR technology itself.

Many retailers are beginning their investigation of QR implementation by focusing on the technology rather than on what role it should play in their overall mobile strategy.

In some cases, apparel retailers are postponing any evaluation of the technology based on the mistaken belief that one 2D code will emerge as the universal standard similar to the way that UPC evolved for point of sale usage in the U. S.

The majority of these apparel retailers would be well served to begin their evaluation process now and to focus more effort on determining exactly what they want to accomplish with the technology.

By knowing what they ultimately want to achieve with the technology, retailers put themselves in a position to make a better decision as to what QR platform or solution would work best for them.

Floor the store
Based on discussions with those apparel retailers and brands which are actively evaluating the technology, the following goals for usage within the store are emerging as the most common:

• Encourage purchase of specific items
• Promote cross-sell opportunities of coordinated accessories
• Create a two-way mobile communication channel with the shopper
• Extend the in-store experience via social networks
• Special promotions
• Linkage to shopper’s existing wish list
• Improve product presentation in the “shop-in-shop” environment

Clearly identifying these types of objectives at the start of the evaluation process will enable retailers to develop capabilities/limitations criteria which they can then use to more effectively compare competing QR solutions.

Some of those criteria which are proving to be of particular interest to apparel retailers and brands are:

• Physical size requirements of the code
• Ability to uniquely identify users
• Vendor access to codes
• Ability to work on feature phones as well as smartphones
• Code security to minimize possible in-store abuse
• Speed and first read rate percentages of code
• Analytics reporting
• Additional capabilities of the platform such as mobile format creation and content management

It is clear to the majority of people currently investigating QR technology that no one solution will meet every retailer’s needs.

Cracking the code
If you look at some of the retail QR programs recently launched, you will find that several have employed different QR solutions.

For example, Home Depot selected ScanLife, Lowe’s went with Microsoft Tag and Best Buy is using the Denzo QR code.

These retailers have obviously different objectives with one retailer making QR an integral component of their overall mobile strategy, while another is simply using it as a standalone solution to provide product information to shoppers.

When evaluating an in-store QR program, the retailer’s first step should be to establish its objectives and then determine which features are required to obtain those objectives.

With that done, it is then in a position to make a meaningful comparison between alternative solutions.

One additional suggestion for apparel retailers beginning their QR evaluation process would be to visit the stores mentioned above to see how the Big Box retailers are using QR technology as a tool to enhance their customer’s in-store shopping experience.

George Hoffman is president of ClikGenie, Charlotte, NC. Reach him at [email protected].