Two recent articles on mobile bar codes illustrate the importance of a key catalyst principle—you have to get the pricing balance right for your stakeholders. A trial of mobile bar codes among students at Case Western University flopped in part because of price—students were unsure how much downloading the barcodes was going to cost given they have complicated and nontransparent rate plans from the mobile carriers (that’s another story), so it seemed that they had to pay to get advertising.
Despite the thrust of the related New York Times article, this “experiment” doesn’t tell us anything about whether there is a business case for mobile bar codes, only that the business model used at Case Western didn’t work in the U.S. context. Indeed, that’s the implication of the MocoNews article “Mobile Barcode-Image Marketing: Make It Free And They Will Come?”
which shows the success of mobile bar codes for Pepsi and many other consumer product companies in China. The main difference in China is that this is free—as advertising and promotion should be—to consumers.
My guess is that the mobile phone will turn into an incredibly powerful device for sending downloadable coupons (which may be barcodes, may be something else) tied to purchasing at bricks and mortar locations. Mobile phones+GPS+advertising+payments will be the engine that will make online technology powerful for “conversions” of customers in the offline world.
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Filed Under: Mobile, New Business Models, Technology, consumers, Consumer Loyalty, advertising