By Andrew Coleman, Digital Promotions Planning Manager
One of the great joys of working for Inmar is the client access. We have more than a thousand of them: all shapes and sizes, all products and verticals, all unique and different. And, yet – so many have common themes and common questions. It's wonderful to help them navigate the space and sort it all out. (The unofficial motto of our Digital Consulting unit: "Have machete, will travel" as our job was essentially to hack our way through the dense and often uncharted jungle of digital promotions.)
After talking to enough clients about their digital ambitions, a few distinct patterns started to emerge; a few common questions would eventually be asked. No question was asked more often than "What about these newfangled mobile barcodes? Do they work? Are they ready for primetime?"
It's totally understandable that clients would ask this question: use cases are popping up everywhere (Target, Starbucks, integration with Passbook, etc.) and it's a trendy topic with both trade publications and digital geeks alike (self included). Unfortunately, the hype has not only outpaced the reality… it has practically lapped the field.
Make no mistake: mobile barcodes are not fiction. They work. They're real! They simply don't yet work with the same ease and simplicity (read: redemption ubiquity) that their paper counterparts enjoy.
Successful pilots at Target and Starbucks only serve to reinforce both the potential for, and the limitations of, current mobile barcode technology: at the retailer level, anything is possible. This makes perfect sense: if a retailer is willing to invest in the hardware and integrate it with their point-of-sale platform, a mobile barcode program can be implemented with great success.
But what if you're not a retailer? What if you're a CPG who has dozens (if not hundreds) of retail partners to consider, each with their own unique point-of-sale configuration? Unless retailers across North America somehow all suddenly decide to adopt the same point-of-sale hardware, version and loyalty software (good luck with that!) there's simply not likely to be a single-bullet, one-size-fits-all solution that will work anywhere (a.k.a. "redemption ubiquity").
The demand is definitely there: customers want the ease and simplicity of mobile coupons. CPG clients want the same. And, some retailers are adopting the tech, albeit at a one-off pace. But, a single mobile barcode solution that will work anywhere, rendered across disparate retailer platforms? I just don't see it. The digital promotion landscape may become less fragmented in the months ahead, but it's likely to remain a jungle for years to come.