Michelle Ludwin, ludwinma@muohio.edu

While I was growing up, shopping was a simple concept. If you needed something, whether is was groceries or clothing, you made a list and headed to a nearby store. Sometimes, you would go to the mall and casually browse through stores and stare at the window displays for a few hours. Then, as the Internet became a popular concept, online shopping evolved on its own. It saved time and the hassle of driving to the store. People could also flip through catalogs and go find it on the store’s website. Now the shopping industry has hit yet another milestone: the scan-to- buy phenomena.

The scan-to-buy phenomenon has a QR code, which is a patterned data in a square that acts as a bar code. These bar codes can be scanned by smart phones and automatically link the consumer to a website. The QR codes have mainly been seen in print or in shopping windows. The Home Shopping Network (HSN) spent the last weekend doing a scan-to-buy trial, letting customers use their phone and scan the codes from a television. This is the first time the codes have been used through a television. If someone scanned the code, the product would be directly put in shopper’s cart while they continue to watch the HSN.

A problem with the QR codes is that it’s too new of a concept at this time. There are too many steps between finding the correct application to download the program to only certain products can scan the codes. Marketing research has found that not a lot of people have begun using the scanning method. The idea of moving consumers to use QR codes is still in the trial and error phase. Experts believe there is a lot of work still to be done to the codes before it becomes the new norm of shopping.

Even though QR codes are still a relatively new concept, the impact it has on the consumer market is huge. Companies are taking the traditionally black square codes and putting their own spin on it. Ralph Lauren changed the color of his label’s code to blue and placed the company’s logo within the bar code. Rachel Zoe is another designer that changed the code to make it fit her brand by inserting a platform shoe into the design.

For right now, as consumers use this new scanning method, companies are offering prizes, exclusive pictures and advertisements. These are incentives for more people to begin using the QR codes because they are only available through this method. People who use the codes right now are at more of an advantage to being exposed to free products and exclusive advertising other consumers will not get or see.

Even though QR codes have not exploded onto the market, the potential it has is almost scary. When online shopping became available, freestanding stores took a hit because less customers were coming to find products. It was easier to get on a computer, search for the item and purchase it without leaving the home. The scanning codes will have a larger imbact because they enhance online shopping. With HSN testing the scanning on the television, the goal is to have a faster method of online shopping. To scan an item on TV and have it automatically in a customer’s cart cuts out all the searching that goes into finding a product. But will this mean an even larger decrease of shoppers at malls?

As technology begins to grow in a rapid fashion some industries have setbacks. If QR codes become successful, freestanding store and malls will have to adapt even more to the technology. There will have to be incentives for customers to come back to a store instead of shopping online or scanning a bar on the television. There is potential in this new technology only if providers can simplify the process of downloading the application and learning how to use it. If the product will be used on televisions, it must adapt to channels not in high definition. Before we know it, customers will be purchasing groceries through a QR code.