The Unexpected Return of The QR Code and What it Means For Marketers

The Unexpected Return of The QR Code and What it Means For Marketers

At Facebook’s F8 2016 conference one of the quieter announcements was the addition of scannable codes in the Messenger app that let you easily follow new friends. This isn’t a new thing, Snapchat’s been doing it for a while now - and so successfully I regularly see brands using the mark for their social avatars. For me personally, when I see these scannable codes, a deep down part of myself feels validated.

I was QR champion before it finally got relegated to crackpot status (the blog “people scanning QR codes” was peak humiliation.) The concept of real world hyperlinks that could be cheaply and easily reproduced and were for the most part free and open source got me juiced. I presented a NerdNite speech on the topic and incorporated the codes into a SXSW promo for my site, Austin Style Watch.

It was at Forever 21 that I got to really experience the sad state of QR when even promos in huge malls were only receiving a hand full of scans. I can’t say we always had then posted at the best size, in the best locations, but we tried.

So why now? Why suddenly has this dusty old technology found its way into the trendiest apps of the moment? Here’s why you’re going to see these codes coming back:

Wide distribution in apps
One of the biggest challenges facing QR in America was that none of the phones came pre-loaded with any sort of scanner – something that’s common practice in most other countries. There was also so much fragmentation with proprietary codes and the introduction of augmented reality, poor consumers were just confused. 900 million people are using Facebook messenger, 200 million are on Snapchat so you finally have scanners on the phones of tons of consumers (even if they’re under the guise of chat apps.) Shazaam, an app traditionally used for identifying music, is also getting in on this area working with TV commercials and doing visual billboard scanning. We finally have a lot of Westerners with “scanners” on their phones, and they could be easily opting into messaging at brick and mortar locations or scanning to get some stylist info on a product.

Snapchat for marketing

Snapchat for ecommerce marketing

Fear of location
SoLoMo has been a term for at least three SXSWs by now, but consumers are still creeped out with too easily being mapped by strangers. We love mapping and tracking, but we want it for our Ubers and our Yelps, not with our messaging or marketing apps. Facebook has tried using GPS location in the past and been burned, so it’s interesting to see them take a step back in technology to achieve this goal. Apple gave retailers big ideas with Bluetooth beacons, but even Apple itself has been slow to adopt the technology in its own stores.

If you’re a marketer who has completely written off codes, or an injured soul like me who walked out of meeting with egg on their face, it’s time to let codes back into your life. Keep an eye on this space and how these social platforms are extending abilities.

What Ecomm Companies Need To Know About Facebook Chat Bots

What Ecomm Companies Need To Know About Facebook Chat Bots

The robots are coming for our jobs. No, seriously. They’re replacing cashiers at McDonalds, putting stockbrokers out of work, and now – ¬†as though outsourcing to India wasn’t bad enough – the robots are coming for customer service and sales.

This week at their F8 conference Facebook announced a new chat bot tool, Agents on Messenger, which will allow companies to create chat flows within messenger that can communicate to customers. They launched with a few clunky partnerships with media and retail companies like 1800 Flowers and Poncho, and these early examples definitely betray the potential of what’s before us.

For ecommerce professionals there are a few things you should be taking note of here:

Your CS teams should be worried

The internet has been evolving faster than CS teams can keep up with and they’re often left with a ¬†patchwork collection of tools for managing chat, social networks, emails, and calls. Content teams and data scientists have been laboring over ways to better help customers self serve and get them to the right support material…but perhaps a more conversational tool is the trick. Chat could potentially put a quick and direct route to CS on the phones of 900 million people, and deliver them an almost personal experience.

Your email and mobile teams should be learning

In Asia, chat platforms have been a marketing channel for ages with retailers hopping on apps like Line. In the US, however, companies have been slow to adopt, even as the number of users on apps like Kik and Messenger grow. The advantage is huge, first of al the ridiculous regulations of SMS make it costly and will have you living in fear of class action lawsuits ( I think I’ve gotten paid from Abercrombie and Steve Madden so far.) Your teams should be staying on top of these, brainstorming ways to drive opt ins, think through product suggestion flows, or thinking of what a drip messaging campaign might look like in this channel.

Mobile is personal

If you hadn’t gathered already, communicating on mobile is extremely personal. We can’t communicate to users on this device in the same way, and companies need to do more to bend to the types of tools, copy, and technology that work best for today’s customer. Mobile is a place where you use their first name, you anticipate what they want, and you speak like a friend.


Turning your app’s one night stand into a long term relationship

Turning your app’s one night stand into a long term relationship

The average app’s lifespan varies somewhere between that of a moth and a classroom hampster. Basically, it’s short, and it can be even worse for retail apps. Customers don’t have money to spend with a retailer every single day, so why should they have a store’s app living on their device? What can companies do to create lasting utility and give their customers something to do even if they don’t have a dollar to drop?

I recently tackled this topic at Appsworld in San Francisco for a fantastic audience that included mobile leadership from companies like Rue La La, Modcloth and World Market. This presentation looks at some of the various techniques brands can use to first find out what their audience might want before sinking development into costly features, and then how to give them loyalty, gamification, in-store tools and other utilities that keep the app relevant in the time between paydays.