Barcodes started off as a tool for retailers to use to avoid tagging product with prices, improving throughput at the checkout, fine tuning inventory control, and reducing shrink. How times have changed.
Consider the following examples:
- While mobile solutions like foursquare allow for check-ins at establishments including retailers, Booyah‘s MyTown is now providing product check-ins. Consumers can scan products with their mobiles using the app and make a game of it to see what comes up. Users can unlock items in a virtual world, or potentially a coupon for what they have scanned.
- As reported by PSFK, Food52, a recipe blog, is using stickybits to allow users of their site to scan products at grocery stores to bring up recipes for those ingredients on their mobiles. Essentially stickybits is a mobile application for iPhone or android that ties barcodes to whatever you want – a website, a video – whatever you like – even a recipe database as Food52 has done.
What this comes down to with retailers is a change of control. Retailers traditionally controlled information and all aspects of how the interaction occurred between the business and the consumer. Now the consumer is gaining a great deal of control over the interaction using tools like those discussed above.
It’s similar to the beginning of file sharing systems like napster which turned the music industry on its head. While physical items like t-shirts are not able to be shared as data files (yet) like music and video can be, electronic devices and gaming are finding ways to spread into the physical world and have an impact on how products can be sold that is beyond the control of retailers and manufacturers. Luckily retailers are attempting to take advantage of these new interfaces.