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Weight Watchers introduces bar code scanning app to assist dieters as they shop

Weight Watchers has introduced a bar code scanner mobile application to help grocery shoppers make more informed shopping choices and reach their weight loss goals.

The new app scans the bar codes on food items at a grocery store and provides nutritional information as well as their points value on the Weight Watchers PointsPlus index. Weight Watchers will be able to gain a better understanding of what foods its members are buying via the app.

“Bar code scanning apps are very popular right now, as they allow consumers to use the smartphones they carry to gain insights into the products they buy,” said Wilson Kerr, Boston-based mobile marketing consultant.

“More importantly, they allow the company that offers the app an opt-in, tracked real-time account of the buying habits of real consumers,” he said.

“Weight Watchers wants to provide this useful tool to consumers, but they also want to know what food items they should offer, through the licensing of their name brand and the actual production of branded groceries. Having a live feed of data regarding what products are scanned, when, how often, and where, should pay big dividends.”

Mr. Kerr is not affiliated with Weight Watchers and spoke based on his experience in mobile.

Points system
The Weight Watchers PointsPlus system assigns points values to different food items so members can keep track of how much they are eating as they try to lose weight.

Scanned foods available on the new bar code scanner app can be added to a user’s favorites or to their daily tracker, which tracks how many of the member’s allotted daily points have been used up.

Additionally, the new bar code scanner app can compare multiple scanned products – a feature that can be useful when it comes to planning meals and shopping lists.

The app can also be used offline to compare previously scanned items, access a user’s personal shopping history and utilize the PointsPlus calculator.

The app is available for iOS and Android devices. It requires a subscription to Weight Watchers Online or Weight Watchers eTools to use.

There have a number of bar code scanning apps introduced, many of which let users scan bar codes while in a store to find out if the item being scanned is available at a lower price elsewhere.

While many retailers are not happy about these apps because of their potential to siphon away sales, the Weight Watchers app is different because all it is doing is providing the kind of nutritional information that consumers on a diet are looking for.

“The price comparison bar code scanning apps are getting a bad name these days, as they could hurt small retailers,” Mr. Kerr said.

“Weight Watchers can use the sense of ‘helping you’ altruism their name brand conveys to their benefit,” he said. “If they market the app effectively, this should help drive downloads and differentiate their app from the crowd.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York