You probably wouldn't think of leaving home without your smartphone, especially when heading out for a day (or night) of shopping. And that's what many retailers are hoping for.
Tweaks on existing mobile bar code technology are surfacing just in time for Black Friday, as retailers try to stand out.
With the advent of the holiday shopping season (although it seems to get going earlier and earlier each year), here are some ways retailers are using barcoding technology to bring in customers.
Target's wayfinding project
With the goal of luring shoppers into their brick-and-mortar stores, Target is piloting an in-store navigation program.
In the test phase at all new CityTarget locations and other selected stores, the Minneapolis-based retailer's so-called "wayfinding technology" aims to enable a customer's smartphone to recognize that person's location within a specific store. Then the shopper is guided directly to a selected item, saving time and potentially beating out others headed for popular toys and gifts.
In addition, Target's television spots, bus shelter ads, and catalog pages will feature QR codes and SMS short codes, expanding the mobile experience for potential customers.
Simply scan the QR codes attached to the 20 hottest toys, and have the option of buying via a mobile site, and having the loot delivered to far-flung relatives and friends, or to your own home.
Apple's digital wallet
Debuting with the recent iOS 6, Apple's Passbook mobile app offers a quasi-digital wallet for iPhone and iPod Touch owners.
Designed to store electronic detritus like loyalty cards, tickets, coupons, and boarding passes, Passbook's highest profile partner is Starbucks. Four Major League Baseball teams (the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, and New York Mets) also used Passbook to generate digital tickets this past season.
iPhone owners seeking their java fix can add a Starbucks account to Passbook via the mobile app, enabling them to make in-store purchases of food and drinks, check card balances, reload cards with cash, and add rewards for free drinks with their phone.
McDonald's has also jumped on the Passbook bandwagon, although currently payments can only be made at 45 locations in France.
With a mobile app called McDo France, customers place an order and pay using their iPhone. Pick up your McDonald's grub by presenting the generated QR code at the counter.
What does the future hold for mobile barcoding technology in retail?
Many brick-and-mortar stores still fight so-called "showrooming," where customers use their smartphones to gather information in-store while buying online.
But industry experts predict that savvy sellers can turn that negative into an opportunity. By increasing engagement within the mobile channel, retailers can add value via education and offer relevant deals available only in the store.
And opportunities for mobile rebates and mobile layaways will keep customers throughout the economic spectrum venturing into stores and pulling out their wallets.
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