2013.10 | Customs Kiosk | Starbucks Square Issues

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Canada Customs Self Service – After traveling out of the country recently, I had the opportunity to use Canada Border Services Automated Border Clearance solution in place at Pearson Airport and Vancouver Airports.

The system works very similarly to the original method used in speaking to an agent.    Canadians coming home to Canada fill in the customs form by hand on the plane as usual, and proceed to the customs area at the airport.   Instead of proceeding to an agent, the handlers in the area will ask you if you wish to leverage self service.   If you opt to use the kiosks, you approach, select your language, and follow the instructions on the screen.  Users insert a completed customs form in the slot below the screen, and then scan your passport(s).  The kiosk will categorize travelers with a code indicating whether you may proceed, or speak to an agent.  Then a printed copy of the populated form with the code as a watermark over the form is produced.  In my case, I had indicated I had nuts with me, which required intervention, and had to speak to an agent who passed me through quickly on my way.

While having to speak to the agent after using the kiosk was a bit frustrating, the vast majority of the times I cross the border I would have had no issue at all.  The kiosks are very simple to use, they have a huge green light at the top indicating availability and instructions are shown simply and on screen.  About the only criticism I can make is that it’s a waste of paper to print out a copy of the form which is already a waste of paper.  Moving towards electronic interfaces in these situations will take time, and this is a wonderful step towards simplifying this much loved process.

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Starbucks Square Issues – Fast Company recently reported on issues that Starbucks has experienced around implementing the acceptance of payments via Square Wallet.  The fundamental issue appears to be a challenge with communicating the ability to accept Square Wallet at Starbucks at their outlets.  I read this article with a great deal of interest.  I’ve been part of numerous deployments in retail and there are so many opportunities for a deployment with a great concept to go awry.

In order to justify a change to a retail solution, there have to be benefits:

First, there must be a benefit to the retailers’ customers.  At first glance, that appears to be missing.  At present, the benefit of using Square over the standard Starbucks mobile app is a bit of a puzzler.  If they use Square Wallet, customers don’t get to count purchases toward future free beverages as part of the Starbucks loyalty program.  That is actually a DIS-incentive to use Square Wallet.  If Starbucks want to drive usage, they should change that.

Second, there must also be a benefit to the retailer.  I don’t see a real benefit to Starbucks beyond the ability to accept another payment method.  It would seem that drawing additional traffic with additional payment options would not be a key driver at stores with long lines in place most of the time.  In fact, throughput would be more of an issue, and the acceptance of Square as portrayed in the article is actually a hindrance to throughput.

Hopefully there is more to this solution than meets the eye.  It would seem logical to assume that getting the Square Wallet in place at Starbucks is to lay the foundation for the geolocation version of Square Wallet which would allow tendering without presenting a mobile device at all.  That would provide benefits for both the Starbucks and their customers.

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2013.06 | No Omnichannel without Operations

All of my talks on Omnichannel with retailers drive me to try out every option I possibly can with my own transactions.

Last weekend I went to see Bharati in at the Sony Centre in Toronto. (I highly recommend the show by the way.  See it if you can!)  Being part of a busy family our weekend was packed with events, ride giving, lessons, and more.  I found myself getting ready to leave the house only about 2 hours before the show – this is definitely cutting it close.

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While I was preparing to depart, I used all of the tools technology available to enable to get there on time.  Ticketmaster was kind enough to send me a reminder email about the event on Friday, so I was able to pull up that message and logging into my account, I printed my tickets.  Great omnichannel experience from Ticketmaster.   It costs too much for Ticketmaster, but it worked smoothly to the point where I didn’t even think about it.

I know the route to get to the theatre well, but always check the GPS routes for options.  I also had to think about parking. Everyone who goes to any urban location knows that parking is a changeable proposition.  Your favourite sites get built upon, closed up, or changed to some other use.

I visited the Sony Centre website to see what parking options were recommended, and I was intrigued by a link to something called Click and Park.

When I clicked that link, I saw a list of the events at the Sony Centre.  The system allows you to pre-pay for a parking spot during your event in a prime location right next to the theatre.  It makes a lot of sense to have a parking spot reserved in a convenient location.  The site indicates the process is as simple as three easy steps: choose your event, select your location and print your permit.  I read through the FAQs, and decided I definitely wanted to try this.  What a terrific idea to optimize a consumer experience and that of a parking lot operator.

I picked my event, validated the parking garage, and paid.  I quickly received my permit.  The pricing was high.  It was $22.42, including fees and the cost of parking.  I expected it to be more like $10 to $15 for a weekend, but I was willing to pay a bit of a premium for a good guaranteed spot, and well – this was for science.  I wanted to see how it worked.

The parking location is a garage I have frequented many times over the years, so I knew where I was going.    I was parking at the Brookfield Place garage.  I did a bit of checking as I know that there are multiple entrances.  One off  Wellington Street and one from Front Street at least.  Both were referred to on the Click and Park website so I figured I was ready to go.

CaptureI printed my permit, hopped in the car, and drove downtown, smug in the knowledge that I had parking covered.  As I approached the lot, I encountered my first problem.  I knew where I was going, but I like to double check any special instructions.  I pulled out my parking permit to double check the address and see what instructions were provided.

Unfortunately, the permit just says Brookfield Place.  Um, ok.  It also says 5pm to 6 am.  Wait, what? My show is on at 2 pm.  It says that right on there.  What does that mean?

Now, what if I didn’t know the address?  Would have been nice to have that on there, right?  Oh well, when I looked at the website, there was lots of friendly green and blue Web 2.0 branding.  I’m sure there will be some sort of signage to point me in the right direction.

I found the lot (after taking a detour – downtown construction being what it always is), and drove up to the kiosk.  I pulled out my form, ready to scan it at….at…..well, nothing.  There was no scanner.  There was no signage indicating what to do.  There was no logo from Click and Park telling me what to do.  There was a flashing light.  Thought that might be a scanner, but no.

Now, I like to think that I know what a scanner looks like.  If you glance through the blog, you will see I’ve worked with a few scanners.  I did not see a scanner, any signage, or any indication of anything other than pushing a button to get a ticket.  So….I pushed the button to get a ticket.

I drove through the garage.  No signage.  No indication that Click and Park exists at all.  I walked through the garage to the event, and saw no indication of Click and Park.

After my very enjoyable show, I thought perhaps I would see a scanner on the way out.  I drove up to the machine on the way out, and with a much more extensive search can assure you that there is no scanner on the exit system either.  I dutifully paid Brookfield Place $10 and departed.

Now, I can’t speak to how this Click and Park solution works in other places, and when I read through their site, I see all sorts of venues that love this system.  It may work well in those spots, but they are not going to get much in the way of business in Toronto without some changes.

If an omnichannel solution like this is going to work, it needs to work for everyone, virtually without them having to think.  I go well beyond the average person to seek out answers and make systems work, but this whole thing does not work at all.   I’m willing to take the $22 (well, maybe $32) hit for science, but I don’t think all of the potential clients of the Sony Centre will feel the same.

This is all about making it easy – not about making the user do the work.

Here’s what I hope the good team at Click and Park consider:

1.  FULL Process Transparency: Providing a process that goes beyond Click and Park getting money and the user printing a piece of paper is important.  That’s all that shows on the website.  It’s great graphic design, but it’s not going to help customers.  I understand that individual parking sites may vary on a process because different parking lots look different and have different systems.  In the interim, why not have specific images or video of the parking lots and how it works?  When you pick a parking lot on the site, it should show the user those images of the process (like scanning a barcode at a gate) so they can see what to expect.  If clients feel comfortable they will try the service and are more likely to use it successfully.  Once you have repeat customers; inertia can carry the solution more.

2.  Better directions: Writing Brookfield Place on a piece of paper is next to useless for the user driving in an urban centre.  Give an address at LEAST.  Better yet, provide some verbiage with details on parking – maybe even an image of the front entrance.   Why not provide a link to Google Maps with the garage on it so I can click an an email or text on my smart phone to get directions on my GPS?  There is no other Brookfield Place, but I’m still not sure if I went to the wrong place or what happened.

3.  Signage: Working with partners can be challenging, but there absolutely needs to be signage at a partner garage above or near the entrance.  If there’s no signage, I’m not sure I’m in the right place.  There should also be signage at entrance welcoming Click and Park guests with some simple instructions like: scan your barcode at the gate next to you.  On the gate itself, there should be some signage with the logo and simple instructions on how to use it.

4.  Recovery: If I as a user somehow manage to make an error in the process, like I forget to scan my card, there should be a way to recover.  The only recovery I saw was a message in my email saying no refunds.  Wrong message.  There should be signage at elevators coming back to the garage for Click and Park clients saying that if they missed scanning their codes, they can go to a certain place to get a new ticket, see an attendant or whatever works.   As a user, I now have a negative feeling of the Click and Park brand and about Brookfield Place.  If you make it easy, everybody wins.

5. Followup:  If I didn’t use the parking space, I should get a text or email asking me why I did not use it.  Click and Park has a list of tickets.  The Parking Lot has a list of tickets.  Mine isn’t on it. Why not ask me why it didn’t work out?   This is a missed opportunity to be sure the solution is working correctly and to gain feedback from users and the site staff.

I fully realize the effort required to complete the items I  have suggested here, but with absolute certainty I can say that this service may as well not exist if it doesn’t revisit its processes.   This is a terrific idea, and I hope it takes off.  For now it just feels like someone slapped a payments website up with this parking lot’s name on it.  It takes more than that for a solution like this to work.  It has to be completely aligned with the operation of the site.

I know I’m $22 smarter from my experience.  I fully expect the value on the knowledge Click and Park will be a much higher amount in the end if they don’t change things up.

2012.20 | Airports, Tactile Touch, Recipes etc.

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Ordering in Airports – Given the unusual footprint and visitor activities in airports, dining has always seemed suboptimal in that environment. Restaurant layouts that make perfect sense in regular life are inconvenient and awkward in an airport. Many of us have walked into the regular pub like setting that has a total of perhaps 40 seats in an airport that serves thousands per day. It’s too busy, you are often lugging bags with you – which take up limited seating areas and cause you to constantly apologize to all around you for knocking everything with your bags.

Installations of iPads thoughout terminals to allow travelers to order food to be brought to them may ease that sense of awkwardness and make great use of airport seating areas if they are well laid out and sensibly arranged. I’ve heard through colleagues that fly through Laguardia where it has been piloted that it seems to work well there. I look forward to trying it in Toronto. Like all other retail technology, the operations behind the enabling solution will be what makes or breaks this! If there is good service level expectation setting and order fulfillment, this could do very well.

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Tactile Touch Screens – Whenever friends ask me what mobile device they should use, my first question is whether they prefer a keyboard. Some people are predisposed to a physical keyboard and don’t want to move to using a touch version. Those people may only have to change a setting on a touchscreen device in the future. Tactus Technology is soon to offer touchscreens with physical buttons that swell up off the display depending on what ‘buttons’ are shown on the display. Check out the video for a real glimpse of the technology and what it could look like. This technology provides an opportunity to have the best of both worlds – a physical keyboard and maximum display real estate. It simplifies multi-language keyboard issues and can offer unique context sensitive keyboard options to UI designers. It also means a potential for a simpler to use self service environment where users attention can be drawn to act as context sensitive buttons rise out of the screen as they are needed.

Recipes on Receipts – Retailer St Marche recently partnered with Hellmann’s in Brazil to print recipes directly on receipts. Taking context sensitive offers to another level, this idea actually prints recipes that include items purchased from the grocery store in that transaction. It’s being tried out on 100 registers. Makes you wonder how much fun POS software would be if every CPG wanted that on every transaction. If it does work out, taking this to the next level with e-receipts seems like an intelligent play; allowing for sharing with friends electronically and ensuring that customers don’t lose any favourite receipt recipes as thermal paper fades over time and could be overheated in a kitchen environment and turn black!

The Extra Inch – Take the time to listen to Terry O’Reilly’s most recent Under the Influence podcast episode, it has some excellent examples of how retailers can win customers over with the little things. More than ever I find retailers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and this podcast sheds some light on how some iconic companies are doing it today. I highly recommend adding Terry’s podcast to your regular playlist – it is always entertaining and you will always walk away with some new ideas. He has a great book as well that I heartily recommend.

2011.47 | Latest Retail Tech Links

New-tritional Labeling – A controversial question, but I really admire this effort at re-thinking how  the nutritional value of foods is presented.  This is a tough area to solve, as everyone has different ideas of nutrition and what is good for you.

Savvy is a mobile tool to track prices after your purchase to ensure you take advantage of price guarantees.  Just take a picture of the receipt from a growing list of retailers, and the app takes care of the rest.

Domino’s is letting build their own pizzas as part of an iPad game called Domino’s Pizza Hero.  This is definitely a clever way to get into the hearts and minds of the kids who use their parent’s iPads to play.

AT&T has a new Concept Store in Chicago.

Hertz has new check-in kiosks that provide a video link to remote staff to provide a live link to the check-in.

Check out this Superhydrophobic Coating It’s touted as a way of protecting electronics from spills but I’m with the guy who wrote it…this could save my clothes.

2011.46 | Wired App Guide: Retail Edition

I finally read the Wired App Guide this weekend.  I highly recommend picking it up if you are interested in mobile apps.  It covers many platforms, and appears to try to stay neutral – iPhone, iPad, Android, WP7 are all represented, but it is iOS heavy. Sorry Blackberry lovers – no mention of Blackberry, though I know at least some of the apps are offered on the Blackberry Market from personal experience.

No matter how much you stay up to date with apps, the app guide is a good read, and there are definitely some useful apps in there, no matter what your personal interests.

Of the 400 apps included, only a  few are retail oriented; 15 by my count.  In fairness, defining retail can be daunting, so I’ve had to use my own reckoning (I’ve counted Netflix and rdio for example – they sell movies and music) and very few are from household “retail” brand names – Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks are the only ones.

Here are the most interesting mobile apps of interest to retailers that made the cut into the app guide:

Kindle – I love Amazon, but Kindle is obviously saving their best efforts for their own devices.  The picture in the app guide is from a Kindle Fire, which is miles ahead of what you get on other devices.  While Apple Amazon and other booksellers  by mandating a cut of in-app sales, the Kindle eBook store accessible via iPad is really an unfortunate user experience.  Kobo’s web store is much easier to navigate and use.  I also think Kobo is doing a much better job in Canada as of late.  Their prices are more reasonable, and the ereader program is comparable to Kindle.

Amazon Mobile – Take the mobile app, scan barcode at store, and get the price for an item from Amazon and add to your cart.  Helpful. Not unique to this app.  Tesco has an app that does the same thing, and Canadian Tire can provide pricing from local store with a barcode scan.  There are many more with notable capabilities – like Meijer’s Findit.

Starbucks – They had to be on there as the pioneer in building a mobile payment system.  The Canadian version is causing me and Canadian users headaches as it seems to be forgetting the login and password.  Forces users to *gasp* pull out their plastic card.  Great app otherwise, and I’m sure that will be fixed.

Apple Store -I’m less keen on the buying capability in the app, but the addition of in store pickup is very handy.  Being able to look up what Apple considers a good aftermarket product also is a useful touch.  More helpful is the ability to book a meeting with a Genius at your local store.  It should be this easy to book appointments with anyone.

Barcode Scanner – It’s an android app.  Not sure why they pushed this barcode scanning price comparison engine.  There have been many others available for years.

Seamless Food Delivery – Network of restaurants to order delivery from your phone.  Great concept.  Not available in Canada, but there are Canadian equivalents for online delivery – no mobile app, but should work on the browser of your mobile.

OpenTable – Reserve tables at your favourite restaurant.  My favourite new features is that you can now save your reservation to your calendar.  A must for obsessive-compulsive types.

Rdio Canada – While it appears to have been around a while, Rdio Canada allows users to play and listen to music in the Netflix model – but with way more content.  Mobile apps are available and it works with airplay.  I’m currently trying it out on a 7 day free trial.  $14.99 per month for unlimited. Great idea for those who don’t have a large music collection already.  Tough break if you are trying to still sell CDs.

Zinio – I don’t buy paper magazines anymore, and this app is the reason.  While there are a few magazines with native iPad apps, many don’t have them.  You can get many of the others here for prices as low as $10 per year.  Immediate downloads on availability.  Very useable reader. Can carry all my magazines with me when I travel.

It’s not terribly surprising that only a few retail brands made this list.  There are thousands of apps, and a top 400 list by necessity will have a lot of things unrelated to a retail experience.  The success of a retail mobile app is not necessarily indicated by being on this list either.

Like any other solution, it’s important to have a benefit to the user and the retailer.  Find a unique need for your clients, and fulfill it.  Many times fulfilling that need will streamline a cost for you.  Do you think it’s more expensive in the long run for Apple Stores to have a web based appointment system interfaced to their mobile app for simple scheduling of technical assistance, or for them just to let people pile into stores at random and get angry when they have to wait for hours to get assistance?

This technology provides a real opportunity to make lives better.  Take the opportunity to help your customers.

2011.41 | Views of the Future

Microsoft’s Vision – I love this future looking view of productivity from Microsoft Office.  Everything is squeaky clean, everything works together, and somehow the wifi at the hotel doesn’t require a code and is faster than dial-up.  All joking aside, it’s a really well made video, and provides some great vision into how things could pan out in the future.  The hard part from a retail technology perspective is making all of this work together seamlessly. That, and people are going to have to learn a lot of new touch gestures! (via Gizmodo)

BMW – BMW’s 300 series are going to have a full colour Heads up Display in 2012.  Consider this an alpha release of the cool computer screens on the car windows on the Microsoft offering.   If you think about it, it also fits the vision of having shopping available in cars as you have seen in future posts.  While voice commands are making great leaps through technologies like Siri, the visual plays a role as well.  The challenge here is not overwhelming safety tools with sales messages.

inPulse smartwatch – There are a few smartwatches out there that are starting to make the rounds.  These wearable displays like the inPulse smartwatch give you access to your phone, providing details on your messages, calls, emails, and more.   I’m really not all that interested in the watch itself.  Having a secondary display is clunky and unnecessary for me.  I would just as likely just pull out my phone as have one more screen with me.  What is interesting is that these devices represent the baby steps of moving a mobile device into one that can interact with screens around them.  While AirPlay does this relatively well between Apple devices, if we are going to see that future with all the devices interacting together some serious work needs to be done to get that in place so that iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows Phone will speak to other Windows, Linux and OSX devices.  Devices like these watches are transitional technologies that will lead the charge in making that happen.

 

2011.05 | Novel Implementations in Retail

A few implementations in consumer facing situations with some unique properties observed in recent news:

  • Royal Bank debuted their first branch with the new branch concept using solutions like Microsoft Surface – for more details on the solution elements and some video check out my prior post.
  • Couche Tard is piloting a bluetooth mobile coupon solution tied to digital signage solutions for Red Bull.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t become mobile spam!
  • Starbucks Canada has placed interactive screens in the front window of one site in both Toronto and Vancouver as part of their Tazo Loose Leaf Tea campaign.  Visit them prior to February 26 to try them out.
  • London Luton Airport in the UK debuted ‘holographic’ hosts to assist airport travellers in navigating the security process.  They are rear-projections of real people onto full size human shaped screens.
  • Walgreens is now providing the capability for customers to renew their prescriptions via their mobile device by taking an image of the barcode on the bottle.
  • Kraft has a new kiosk that they showed off at NRF’s big show in New York last month that recommends recipes based on users’ appearance.   There’s something of the old carnival weight guesser about this one.  It makes you wonder if vegans look a mite greener, perhaps.  Next up, drive through kiosks that guess your order based on your car.

2010.25 | Contactless Transit in NYC | Walmart Loyalty | Mobile Movie Marketing

Contactless Transit – While contactless has lots of benefits, it sure seems to have problems with customer usage.  NYC has the contactless credit card option on the turnstiles as part of a 6 month trial, and while the benefits seem obvious, there are few takers according to this NYT video. Why would consumners opt to go to a vending machine, charge a declining balance card, and then use that card to pay for their ride? Consider the benefits to users:

  • One card will do where two were once needed – no need for separate Metro Card
  • No need to recharge a card at a Metrocard Vending Machine = no waiting and reduced time spent on purchase
  • The turnstile opens and closes just as quickly
  • No need for an advance outlay of funds
  • No more lost coins or cash jingling in your pockets – though the cash option may be what drives the recharging of cards depending on your population.

Yet still little usage based on their informal survey in the subway.  Most likely problem: they’ve not been advertising it strongly enough in person as part of this trial.  For self service to succeed someone at the site needs to be there telling New Yorkers why this is a benefit.  Technology isn’t enough on its own.  The general population needs to be shown, shown again, and then shown another time – highlighting the benefits in a brief, clear manner. 

Walmart Loyalty – While a perennial holdout in the many loyalty schemes available here in Canada, Walmart Canada will be offering loyalty points on their new credit card to be released as part of their newly chartered bank.  This should shake things up a bit.

Mobile Movie Marketing – As part of the upcoming release of the Steve Carell motion picture Despicable Me,  the Best Buy Movie Mode mobile app will translate the nonsense jabber of little characters called minions during the end credits of the movie while users are in the theatre.  This idea certainly provides an interesting cross pollination for retailers like Best Buy to the movies, and we can certainly expect them to extend it to other films.  Now we will have public service announcements at the end of the movie to remind us to turn ON our mobile.  Like that was necessary.

2010.21 | Vancouver Retail | Foursquare Offers | Mobile Parking Payment

This week I was travelling in the greater Vancouver area to visit some clients, and came across some interesting solutions I had not experienced closer to home.

While making a daily pilgramage to Starbucks, I checked into Foursquare and found a little yellow indicator showing that there were offers near my current location.  It turned out that Starbucks has tied their new Frappacino campaign to Foursquare.  If you happen to be the mayor of your local Starbucks, you recieve $1 off any new Frappuccino beverage.  It’s uncertain if this sort of campaign will drive a great deal of traffic, but it’s an interesting idea, and it certainly can’t be costing them much.  It’s also a nice way to reward loyalty.  [Update: I went to Starbucks at home this weekend where I am the mayor, the offer says congratulations for unlocking the offer and it’s shown in colour]

The parking meter situation also presented a solution that was new to me.  One of the problems I encounter periodically is the older cash only situation.  From time to time there is a parking lot that does not accept debit or credit, and I personally complete most transactions in that manner, as I don’t carry cash.  This turns into an inconvenience I would rather avoid.  While in Toronto we have plenty of meters that leverage a ticket station, and I know that there have been experiments with contactless payment, Vancouver had a relatively low tech way of getting the payment completed.   Parkers call a number and enter the meter number and their account connected to their license plate is charged.  I’m sure there are lots of solutions like this out there, I know I’ve seen it in some parking lots, for example, but I’d never seen city meters numbered before.  It certainly made it easier for me to make my meeting on time and helped me avoid a ticket.  Not jingling while you walk was just a bonus!

2009.47 | Paper Free Offers Please

Given the state of the global economy, special offers have become the new normal in retail.  Retailers are increasingly able to offer relevant offers on products and services desired by individual consumers.  Consumers who are loyal in these fickle times are rewarded with great deals. 

A technology decision such as requiring a barcoded coupon can have a heavy influence on the closure of a sale.  If a physical coupon is required and forgotten, there can be disasterous concequences.  The consumer may make a special trip to a location, spend sigificant time and energy to fill a basket, and then discover that the offer can not be redeemed. 

The end result is an abandoned basket, at best.  At worst, a customer will feel cheated by the retailer for forgetting a slip of paper.  This sort of small annoyance finds its way to places like Consumerist, or onto Twitter.  While these small annoyances were not worth addressing in the past – with no facility for consumers to vent such a small issue, these items could be ignored.  These new media provide instant response, and the potential for massive backlashes never before possible.

The opportunity to bring a consumer closer to a retailer – to make them more loyal – has been transformed into a pain point for the consumer.  And why the pain point?  Why is it necessary that we all kill trees and feed toner onto paper so that a barcode can be scanned?   The reasons are myriad, and include:

  • Limiting the offer – Perhaps retailers don’t want to provide the offer to the general population, but to a select audience.  Perhaps they are limiting the stock for a BOGO or free item.  While this is sometimes the case, many offers generally encourage you to send them to friends and family and use them over and over again. 
  • Sweethearting – Retailers want to reign in associates who give discounts to people on their whim – they could give it to everyone.  Using a barcode provides an audit trail with the paper coupon and the scanning requirement that will minimize the impact of a dishonest cashier providing discounts to unqualified individuals.
  • Tracking – Any campaign requires measurement, and some campaigns may want to track where the consumer found the offer, so they can understand their multi-channel mix.  There may be different barcodes for e-mail, flyers, newspaper ads, for whatever medium was used to validate the offer source.

There has to be some way to meet these very reasonable retailer needs in some manner without the handicap of a paper coupon – a 19th century innovation.  Unfortunately, barcodes can’t be scanned directly from most mobile devices, so this problem may take some time to be resolved with technology.  While there are some amazing opportunities using 2d barcodes or coupon apps to bridge this divide that are wholeheartedly encouraged, an interim measure that works for all consumers – not just mobile users – is key to avoid the bad press on line that can sink brand capital – particularly in the online world where bad press spreads so quickly.

As always the best route is to make the technology as invisible to the consumer as possible.  Why not make the unique barcode something that can be entered manually if the client reads it off their device to the cashier?  If there are concerns about limiting or sweethearting, why not have a code that the cashiers can enter manually if a customer mentions the offer, and a different code if it is scanned?  If the coupon is fundamentally required, offer a lesser discount without it. 

No matter the answer, it’s important to consider the desired end state, and not get caught in technology for it’s own sake – be it a barcode or a mobile device.  The solution has to be simple for the consumer.

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