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Mobile bar code usage grows 1,600 percent in 2010: Scanbuy

January 11, 2011

Scanbuy seeks to connect the physical world to the digital world via mobile bar codes

Scanbuy seeks to connect the physical world to the digital world via mobile bar codes

Mobile bar code scanning experienced continued rapid growth in the fourth quarter of 2010, reflecting increased adoption of smartphones for every-day activities such as shopping, product information and Web usage, according to Scanbuy Inc.

The recently released ScanLife Mobile Bar Code Trend Report found that most consumers use mobile bar code scanning to find coupons, prices and nutritional information. As more consumers engage in mobile bar code scanning, Scanbuy advises brands and merchants to take note of the trends and patterns in usage when deciding how to spend their marketing dollars.

“With 1,600 percent growth, which doubled in the fourth quarter alone, 2010 was the year that people really started to embrace this technology on multiple fronts,” said Mike Wehrs, CEO of Scanbuy, New York. “Mobile bar code scanning is growing at a very rapid pace, and it is now start to move out of the early-adopter stage. 

“The number of people that are using mobile bar code scanning on a regular basis is more than most people think—it is likely 15-25 million in the U.S. alone,” he said. “One of the biggest scan days was Christmas Day, which was surprising—people likely scanned their newest ‘toys,’ and many of those were new smartphones, which loaded up on apps.

“Additionally, share grew among females and the 35-54 age group, which is indicating a shift toward the mainstream.”

The data for the Scanbuy report was collected globally from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010.

The ScanLife Code Management Platform generates QR Code, Datamatrix and EZcode.

Data was gathered from the ScanLife Reporting Server, which pulls anonymous data from both the ScanLife mobile application and third-party 2D bar code applications on codes that are being published by ScanLife customers and third-party generators.

As used in the report, mobile bar code scanning encompasses any mobile activated bar code symbology including the traditional UPC or EAN barcode which is found on virtually every package, or the newer 2D or two-dimensional formats.

Mobile bar code usage growing steadily
Some of the key stats highlighted in the report include the fact that mobile bar code traffic was up 16X in 2010 overall, and traffic doubled since the last trend report in September.

UPC scanning outpaced 2D codes as a result of the holiday shopping season.

The largest scan days were the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”) and Christmas Day as people received gifts, many being new smartphones.

The top most used features for people scanning UPC codes are coupons, prices and nutritional information.

This reflects previous learning that Food and Personal Care are the most scanned categories.

There was a 13 percent increase in female to male traffic, and a 25 percent increase in the 25-54 age group. This is likely indicative of how the technology is evolving and going more mainstream, per Scanbuy.

Mr. Wehrs said that 2D bar codes experienced another significant uptake during the fourth quarter 2010 as a result of not only the holiday shopping trends, but overall consumer adoption and understanding of how the mobile device is a vital tool in getting information quickly and easily while the person is out and about.

Smartphone adoption, and the ability to easily get information or save money, is accelerating growth in mobile bar code adoption, per Scanbuy.

The number of Android downloads the week of Christmas was double that of the previous week, and that trend is now accelerating into the new year.

“There are so many ways that bar codes can be used by marketers,” Mr. Wehrs said. “2D bar codes should be placed on most traditional media like print ads, direct mail and catalogs.

“UPC codes should be activated by CPGs to give the user branded value,” he said. “And retailers should be embedding a bar code scanner into their mobile apps to give their customers easy access to content like offers and cross-sells. 

“All of these are activation points, which can lead to deeper product information, social networking of media and the ability to purchase right on the device.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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