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Costco packs digital watermarks into pages to drive mcommerce, engagement

Costco is rolling out the mobile technology in the April issue of The Costco Connection. The digital watermarks are powered by Digimarc.

“Because The Costco Connection has the largest print circulation of any monthly magazine in the U.S., it has the potential of interacting with a large mobile audience now that readers can connect directly from the print pages,” said David Fuller, assistant vice president of publishing and editor of The Costco Connection, Issaquah, WA

“This can bring them directly to our ecommerce site or to content that will accomplish the same goals that the print magazine accomplishes,” he said.

Costco claims to be the fifth largest retailer and the biggest warehouse club chain in the United States.

How it works
The Costco Connection is a magazine with a circulation of eight million readers. The magazine is sent to club members every month.

Readers need to download the Digimarc Discover application for free from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

Users can then point their mobile device with the app open at a page that includes a call-to-action to view the extra content.

Consumers can then shop the pages, access product and store information and watch videos via the app.

For example, the cover article of the April issue is about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A call-to-action at the bottom of the page instructs users to scan an image of a tablet to watch a video about vaccines. 

A spread that advertises products available at can be scanned to view the products featured on the page via Costco’s mobile site.

From there, consumers can filter products by price, brand or rating and shop from the mobile site.

Furthermore, consumers are encouraged to scan a picture on a sidebar article about Autism Awareness Month to watch a video that tells the story of a boy with autism.

Instructions on how the technology works is included in the table of contents.

The mobile-enabled April issue is part of a longer-term partnership with Digimarc to enhance both editorial and advertising pages.

In addition to the companion app, The Costco Connection has also enhanced editorial and advertising in its digital editions with videos and content. Consumers can download the Newsstand Edition of The Costco Connection for free on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.

A Web edition of the magazine can be accessed at

“Costco likes to move cautiously as new technologies emerge,” Mr. Fuller said.

“We have a Facebook page, but do not engage members through Twitter, for example,” he said.

“We take great care in trying not to intrude on members by inundating them with marketing messages, whether they are print or electronic.”

Mobile shopping
Costco initially rolled out its mobile site in 2010 to serve as an additional revenue stream for the company (see story).

Then last year, the brand launched its iPhone and Android app to let consumers shop inventory from their handsets (see story).

In this case, placing digital watermarks on print pages is a smart way for Costco to connect with consumers while they are shopping either online or inside a store and most likely have their mobile device within reach.

“I believe watermarking and similar technologies linking print to mobile will enhance the perceived and actual value of print pieces among retail marketers,” Mr. Fuller said.

“This technology makes it more clear than ever how retailers can deploy print, digital and bricks-and-mortar in mutually supportive ways,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York