Smartphones are changing the way we shop, and retailers need to adjust to this new reality. Customers are getting apps installed on their smartphones so they can use them as barcode scanners. This opens up new possibilities to shoppers and presents a new challenge to retailers.
It keeps getting easier for customers to compare prices for the same products at different stores. In the past, they had to check competing store ads or drive to different stores and write down prices on a notepad. Then they were able to check prices online, though sometimes retailers were unwilling to divulge product prices on their websites. But now shoppers can simply scan a product with their smartphones and instantly see which store has the cheapest price.
Of course, just because another store has the lowest price doesn’t mean customers will necessarily flock there. They have to take into account gas prices, distance and other factors that might make it more convenient to keep shopping at the store they’re used to.
Buying Groceries? There’s an App for That
In Seoul, South Korea, an international grocery chain called Tesco just introduced an entire shopping experience geared toward smartphone users. Using an app, shoppers can scan QR codes and add products to a virtual shopping cart. They don’t have to carry any of the products with them; their order is delivered to their home later.
Tesco’s new store is located in a subway station. That might seem like a counterintuitive place for a grocery store, but it’s actually very convenient for travelers who want to get more done and save time by not having to go to the store after work. They can buy their food on the go and have it come to them at the end of the day. We’ll have to see if this concept catches on in South Korea and other countries.
40 Years and Counting
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of the UPC code, and it’s still going strong. QR codes are less popular than UPCs among retailers, but they are becoming more prevalent in magazines and websites. Japan, South Korea and Britain are some of the biggest early adopters of these new barcodes. They’re a quick way to share video, links and other information so people don’t have to remember a URL.
For now, UPCs are still the dominant force in barcodes, so it’s wise to offer smartphone access to them. Regardless of which barcode becomes more popular, the fact remains that smartphones are changing the way customers shop and retailers do business. Be prepared because the future is coming faster than you think!