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Are QR Codes and Virtual Stores the Future of Marketing?
By: Anamika Pande Ved
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How do you sell to the consumers who are too busy to come to your store? You take your store to the customers.
 
That’s exactly what brands such as Glamour Magazine, Peapod, Fox Home Entertainment, and Marks & Spencer are doing to reinforce their brands with customers. They have introduced a creative and convenient way of shopping for their time-pressed customers.
 
Glamour magazine has set up a shoppable wall in New York, which is stocked with items from Unilever, C.O. Bigelow, Johnson & Johnson, John Frieda, Elizabeth Arden, Clearasil, and Versace. The wall lets consumers scan 2-D barcodes with an app on their smartphones to buy real products for home delivery.
 
Peapod, a leading Internet grocer serving 24 markets in the United States, established its first QR code-enabled virtual grocery in Chicago’s State and Lake Station Tunnel. The tunnel wall is wrapped with ads of grocery store shelves stocked with popular products and items. The customers can scan and purchase the selected items by pointing their mobile phones at a bar code and add them to their virtual baskets. The goods are then delivered to the home right after they get back from work. As a follow-up to the success in Chicago, the company rolled up similar virtual stores in Philadelphia.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment established Fox Movie Mall virtual storefronts for consumers to purchase a movie and have it mailed to their home.
 
One look at the examples given above and you know that QR code virtual stores are fast evolving as a unique way of brand promotion and heralding a new age in mobile shopping.
 
The new mobile shopping experience, which is now catching up in different countries, was the brainchild of Tesco in South Korea. To obtain a number-one position in the FCMG market of South Korea without expanding the number of physical stores, Tesco conducted a market survey. After looking at the busy schedules of the working people and the inconveniences they faced in doing their daily groceries, Tesco decided to get access to high-traffic areas and present the public with a Virtual QR Code Store. The stores were first launched in 2009 in subways and then on bus stops and public transport to high traffic places.

 

Following the example of Tesco in South Korea, QR Code virtual shops are popping up in the U.K. Canada, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and Singapore.
 
To simplify grocery shopping, the U.K’s online-only grocery shop, Ocado, installed its first virtual store, a shopping wall with QR codes in the London shopping center.
 
Similarly in March, Well.ca, an online health and beauty retailer launched the first virtual QR code shop in Toronto, Canada and have plans to set up more of such stores in other parts of the country.
 
This brings us to the question: Is QR Code virtual shopping a genuine business innovation?
 
In the beginning of the year, a survey from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies revealed that half of smartphone owners have scanned QR codes and 18 percent of them made a purchase after scanning. This suggests that there is acceptance of the technology by the consumers and it is a good opportunity for the marketers to engage with the consumers through the QR codes.

The study also shows that 70% consumers found QR codes to be an easy-to-use technology, which proves that QR codes will not be a hindrance to people. Infact the marketers who give compelling reasons to the consumers to use the codes will be successful.

According to the analysts from research firm Gartner Inc. mobile applications will account for 50% percent of web sales by 2015. As more people use smartphones, they will expect the customer experience to extend and be supported by mobile devices. Businesses that integrate mobile into their marketing strategy will have an edge in a fast-growing market.
 
QR Code virtual stores should be touted as a smart business innovation for the fact that they require no additional infrastructure for merchants, retailers, and consumers.
 
Virtual stores can become an important channel of consumer engagement. The stores allow the brands to connect to the customers and make their selections of hot and exclusive products available whenever and wherever consumers prefer to shop.

In addition, the virtual stores serve to build brand awareness at low marketing costs.
 
It will take a while before consumers swap their shopping bags for mobile shopping apps, but with the surge in smartphone and mobile Internet penetration, there is every chance that QR code stores will be the future of marketing.


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About the Author
Anamika Pande Ved is a blogger, content curator, and content writer with Global Washington, a non-profit in Seattle, Washington. She is fascinated by commercials, more so if they are used for "social good." She is an avid traveler, reader, and a singer. Find her on Twitter here anamikaved15@gmail.com
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