The emergence of scannable barcodes in advertising has generated lots of publicity in the last couple of years, but not much corresponding data about consumer adoption. To help address that imbalance, barcode technology provider ScanBuy has released a new report offering insight into usage barcodes based on its own platform data between June 1 and September 15.
Among the key findings: There were more barcode scans performed in a single month starting in July than in all of 2009, highlighting the technology's growth as an ad vehicle. Scanning via the company's barcode system has increased 700% from the start of 2010.
By downloading the company's ScanLife application, users with a camera phone can get product information, coupons or other content via tags placed on product packaging, print ads or outdoor signs. The mobile barcode reader supports 1D and 2D codes as well as the company's proprietary EZcodes.
While much of the barcode buzz has centered on the newer 2D format, often referred to as QR codes, ScanBuy found both 1D and 2D codes are being scanned about equally, "showing people are less concerned with code format, and more interested in getting information quickly," according to the company.
Linking to a Web site was by far the most common type of action encouraged by a 2D code, with 85% driving traffic to a URL. Among traditional 1D, or UPC, codes, health and beauty products were the most popular category, making up 21% of scans, followed by groceries (14.4%), books (12.6%), and kitchen items (9.2%). ScanBuy said people are also actually making purchases through mobile devices, with books and electronics showing among the highest conversion rates.
Looking at user demographics, the study found that half of barcode users are ages 35 to 45 and skew male, reflecting the smartphone and early-adopter populations. Android was easily the most popular smartphone platform among barcode users, with 45% owning devices powered by Google mobile operating system. Second was BlackBerry (27%), followed by the iPhone (15%), Symbian (9%), Java (3%) and Windows Mobile (1%).
In its mobile marketing playbook released this month, digital agency 360i noted that barcodes have given retailers, packaged goods companies and brands the tools to deliver content and promotions on mobile devices. But the agency warned that technology and business hurdles remain.
"The wide variety of barcodes -- including the names (1D, 2D, UPC, QR, etc.) -- can create confusion among marketers and consumers alike, and both seek a more consistently reliable experience," stated the report. Indeed, ScanBuy competes with other barcode scanners including Jagtag, Microsoft Tag, Red Laser, Shop Savvy and Sticky Bits. The market for vendors is still shaking out.