Although analysts and industry insiders have predicted the death of the QR code in recent years, Mike Wehrs, CEO of mobile barcode company Scanbuy, hopes data aggregation will extend the usefulness of 2D barcodes.
Founded in 2000, Scanbuy’s customers include companies like Nespresso, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Staples and Home Depot, which use Scanbuy’s platform to build and manage mobile campaigns such as QR code-based coupon offers. The company has raised about $31.9 million and will soon announce another round of funding, Wehrs said.
As consumers scan the QR codes, Scanbuy receives data points that it is attempting to monetize. Wehrs pointed to the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, in which Scanbuy processed more than 10 million QR code, barcode and NFC scans and nearly half a billion data points.
Each scan yields a minimum of 40 data points, including information about the device type, operating systems, location data and the type of item that was scanned. Wehrs hopes advertisers and data aggregators are interested in this data, which he said can be applied to retargeting campaigns.
“We believe there’s an opportunity for us to take the data that we have and make it available for advertising partners and brands that want to tie it in with their customer loyalty systems and things like that,” Wehrs said. “Our data is rather unique in that it is delivering insights around interactions with physical products and brands to show definitive brand interest and purchase intent”
But growing this line of business requires Scanbuy to overcome a number of hurdles, according to analysts.
“The data itself will need to be compelling, perhaps showing product relationships, sales and other data beyond what products were scanned, when and where,” said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence and a senior analyst at Internet2Go. “It may be necessary to strike a number of third-party data partnerships to connect more of the dots.”
Toward that end, Wehrs said Scanbuy has already closed four such deals with data-management platform (DMP) providers.
Yet Natalie Petouhoff, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, wondered how useful raw data from QR codes actually is.
“Once the companies who buy it get it, do they know what to do with it?” Petouhoff asked. “The value is not in the data … It is more in how that data provides insights to make business decisions.”
There is also the issue of whether QR code usage rates are dropping. ScanBuy said it processed 18 million scans in Q1 2013. That’s up from 13 million scans in Q1 2012, which in itself was up 157% over Q1 2011. Reports from research firms like comScore, however, show QR code usage rates as either declining or remaining flat.
And as Scanbuy extends its offerings, it faces competition from companies like Google, Apple and Digimarc that are also enhancing the QR code technology or developing alternatives for it. Apple’s iBeacon, for example, has received praise as a more seamless way of connecting in-store customers with a retailer’s website and other online sources.