Smartphones, apps to boost barcode uptake

Growing smartphone adoption and availability of apps that read 2D barcodes, particularly Quick Response ones, will help technology take off in Asia-Pacific, say industry players.
Written by Tyler Thia on

Rising smartphone adoption and more barcode scanning apps coming online are two trends that will drive the platform for two-dimension (2D) barcodes, specifically, Quick Response (QR) codes, industry players note.

According to Dennis Rose, vice president of Brightcove Asia-Pacific, an online video hosting vendor, smartphones with the capability to scan and read QR barcodes are increasingly available across the region. This will help open up the market for barcode advertising, he added.

"There is real potential to take [QR barcodes] further [on smartphones] such as linking to online content and targeting consumers through mediums like video. [The impressions these create with consumers] are likely to stay with them longer than other forms of advertising," said Rose told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

He also identified the proliferation of social networks, video content and improvement in mobile bandwidth in recent years, as other potential factors that will boost the acceptance of QR barcodes.

Barcode apps aid growth
Dickson Chew, Zebra Technologies' director of technical operations and product management, also observed an "anecdotal increase" in the uptake of QR barcodes in both commercial and advertising spaces, which he attributed partly to the development of code-scanning apps.

"With the increasing popularity of smartphones, software applications that enable QR code-scanning have been developed for all Android, Nokia, Research In Motion and Apple phones, turning these devices into instant mobile scanners," Chew added.

The increased ability for an individual to scan images has brought about a revelation that QR code can support advertising and marketing efforts including in-store displays, event ticketing, couponing, among others, he revealed.

"It is a technology viewed by the marketing industry as a quick and accurate way to measure responses, and generate the necessary ROI (returns on investment) to justify the expense," he said.

Furthermore, besides QR barcodes, there are currently also other competing 2D barcode symbologies in the market, he pointed out. With the choices now available to both vendors and consumers, he reckoned there will be a "gradual increase" in barcode adoption across the Asia-Pacific.

When asked why receptivity toward QR barcodes is still lukewarm in the region, Chew explained that the barcode was developed in 1994 by Japanese company, Denso Wave, to encode Kanji and Hangul characters used in the Japanese and Korean languages. This explains the popularity of QR in these Asian markets but not in countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong, where English is the predominant language and traditional UPC (Universal Product Code) barcode symbology is preferred, he added.

Additionally, as traditional barcode symbology is more widely used in English-speaking countries across the world, particularly the United States and Europe which are economic powerhouses, Asia tends to "reflect the norms of these markets", he said.

Integrating old with new
However, to retain consumer interest, advertisers must integrate and produce complementary Web content, according to Nick Ford, co-founder of Tappinn.com, a company that builds mobile platforms for QR code deployment.

"It's about building specific mobile Web content around your print, and not building print around existing mobile Web content," Ford said in a video blog. "I think that's a major mistake a lot of people have made early on. It's like they're just throwing code on existing print, and linking it to existing Web content [instead of] marrying the two."

The need for unique mobile content was also highlighted by Brightcove, which worked with South Korean companies to create a campaign for a 10-year-old beverage.

Lotte Chilsung, the beverage manufacturer, wanted to attract a younger consumer group for its 2Pro drink, which resulted in a two-part campaign involving TV ads and MS Tags which were placed on bottles. Developed by Microsoft, MS Tags are similar to QR codes and support various mobile platforms including Windows Phone 7, Android and BlackBerry.

The 2Pro TV ads told part of a love story between two young adults. To finish the scene, viewers had to buy a bottle of 2Pro and scan the code to access an online video.

Ford said this form of advertising encourages consumers to initiate conversations with brands via platforms that were not possible before. Unlike "invasive" banner advertising on the Internet, QR code-scanning applications "respond to a consumer request with exclusive and unobtrusive Web content [that can be] delivered instantly", he said in his blog post.

Singapore-based OCBC Bank recently launched an Android app that allows its customers to scan barcodes and pay their bills via their mobile device.




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