Commentary

Sticking it Out in the World of Mobile Commerce


The first time I bumped into mobile startup Scanbuy was at a MediaPost conference in New York several years ago.

After a demo, I had some difficulty getting the QR-code scanning app to work effectively on my BlackBerry (yes, I had one too) and was told by the Scanbuy executive that it worked better on Apple and Android devices.

Fast forward to today: no longer a startup, Scanbuy essentially just took over the scanning business of Microsoft (see story).

Besides the obvious messages here that mobile startups can win and scanning has legs, it highlights one of the major tenets in mobile commerce. That is, if something can provide value, it will prevail.

We all know that a lot of initial QR code scanning was devoid of meaningful value. QR codes were free for anyone to create, so many (make that too many) were created that provide no added benefit to the person doing the scanning.

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The codes simply brought the consumer to a website. As in, big deal.

Many consumers got this right away and turned away from codes, since they were seen simply as a slightly faster way to get to a website. We’ll have to see if those early scanners come back now that marketers are figuring how to deliver richer experiences after the scan.

I used a Scanlife code on the back of my first mobile book (The Third Screen) and used the dashboard to monitor scans both demographically and geographically. Value received.

In some ways, the scanning evolution reminds me of where we are in mobile commerce.

It’s still early and there are many startups attacking various parts of the commerce puzzle, ranging from precision targeting to mobile payments.

Some of the early innovators will no doubt fall by the wayside while others will prevail.

But as with the early days of barcode scanning, some companies and consumers stuck with it, either as provider or recipient of value.

Commerce likely will follow the same pattern.

Once the innovators and early adopters collectively work through the bugs, mobile commerce will move to the masses.

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