“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.” Steve Jobs
Every brand aspires to get close to its customers to understand what makes them tick. Those that succeed invariably deliver better experiences that inspire long-term loyalty. Today, the world’s biggest brands know us so well they’re able to personalise their marketing to match our individual tastes and behaviours. When Netflix recommends you try Better Call Saul, it’s because it knows you binge-watched Breaking Bad. The personal approach works; whether it’s a Netflix notification or a ‘programmatic playlist’ from Spotify, targeted recommendations – informed by deep learning and vast data – hugely influence the content we stream. Steve Jobs was right: successful brands get so close to their customers, they can tell them what they need long before they know they need it. And we all keep coming back.
However, not all brands are as fortunate as the digital disruptors. How do you get close to your customer when your brand isn’t an online service that’s routinely capturing user data? If you’re marketing a physical entity – a food, a toy, a designer handbag or a male grooming kit – how do you even know who your customers are (let alone what they need) when complex supply chains inevitably separate you from your end-user? How can you add brand value when you can’t build a direct relationship with your customer or lay the foundation for long-term engagement? The answer is: you can. In fact, as Lee Metters, Group Business Development Director, Domino, examines, with the advent of simple, affordable technology, you can do it quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.
A convergence of factors is creating new opportunities for marketers to transform the way they manage their brands through the consumer lifecycle. The availability of personalised barcodes combined with the ability of smartphones to read them, has reinvented consumer behaviours, with shoppers increasingly scanning product barcodes to discover more about the brands they buy. However, until recently, the absence of standardised coding meant that brands needed to create proprietary apps to deliver their value-added features, relying on customers’ willingness to download ‘yet another app’ in a world of app fatigue. The introduction of GS1 Digital Link barcodes, which provide a standards-based structure for barcoding data, has removed this need for product-specific apps. It’s opened up the potential for marketing innovation – such as digitally activated campaigns that can transform a product into an owned media channel - enhancing the brand experience and building stronger connections with customers. This key development has been assisted by the emergence of advanced coding and marking systems that are helping brands include more information on every product, allowing them to personalise customer experiences at speed and scale.
With customer intimacy considered a key driver of commercial success, personalised coding and marking can help brands achieve the Holy Grail of getting closer to their customers. What’s more, it provides a platform for value-added innovation that builds engagement, trust, and long-term brand loyalty. The potential applications are exciting and wide-ranging.
Internet of Products
Digital innovation is not limited to online brands – practically every product can form part of a connected and accessible online ecosystem. An internet of products. In its simplest form, personalised barcoding can provide a gateway to online content – user manuals, product details, blogs, communities, and customer support – that enhances the brand experience. However, beyond the basics, the opportunities for compelling customer engagement go much further. Leading brands are using QR codes to trigger anything from loyalty schemes and competitions to gamification and immersive brand experiences. Progressive brands are using barcodes to create innovative gifting solutions – allowing customers to record personal video messages to accompany their presents, giving their loved ones a more memorable experience.
The potential for innovation is significant – and the rewards are too. For example, in Germany, Coca-Cola used barcoding on cans and bottles to engage directly with consumers, with a simple scan connecting customers with ‘in the moment’ mobile experiences. The digitally activated campaign allowed Coca-Cola to transform its products into an owned media channel, captivating customers with personalised content, incentives, and competitions that generated unprecedented brand engagement. The campaign has subsequently been rolled out across 28 markets in Europe and North America.
Provenance and authenticity
Serialisation, first introduced to safeguard the medicines supply chain against the plague of counterfeit drugs, is now being widely applied across many industries – allowing brand owners and customers to track and trace products and determine their authenticity. This is a significant value-add in sectors like food, where discerning consumers are increasingly interested in the provenance of produce, and the journey foods make from farm to fork. With carbon footprint and other environmental issues now a key influence on consumer purchases, traceability is a major value-add across most commercial industries.
The value of data
Barcode innovation undoubtedly provides considerable value for consumers. With research showing that customer experience is the most competitive battleground in consumer markets, qualities such as transparency, social responsibility, and open engagement are all crucial ingredients in a trusted brand experience where personalised barcoding can help. But the value exchange isn’t all one way: marketers benefit too.
Direct link barcodes provide a mechanism to capture a rich seam of real-time data that can help brands understand – and respond to – customers’ needs. Simple information such as user profiles, geo-location, purchase history, dates, and times can be leveraged to build a dynamic picture of individual customers, helping to inform a wide range of services and communications. This data can provide a powerful marketing platform – an organic and automated CRM – to target customers and personalise communications based on identifiable preferences and behaviours. Marketers can understand customers’ buying cycles to trigger timely and relevant alerts. They can upsell products and accessories, nudge customers when warranties expire, or past purchases are getting old and tired. And just like Netflix, they can recommend new products that customers will love – long before they know they need them.
Cracking the code
The emergence of GS1 Direct Link barcodes – and the smart technologies that support them – is transforming the retail experience, helping consumers find out more about the products they buy and bringing brands much closer to customers. As the High Street battles tough economic conditions and the rise of digital disruptors, the successful brands of tomorrow will be those that exploit the creative opportunity of personalised barcoding and deploy advanced coding and marking systems that make the magic happen.
It’s time to crack the code.