Aren’t the constant glimpses of the future in our everyday lives awesome. I just downloaded the new Starbucks applications on my iPhone and caught one of those glimpses. Note: I’m not sure why they split these apps into two, I was unhappy that this now takes up two spots on my iPhone deck and the two apps should have been one – just one of those dumb things smart marketers do. But I digress and don’t want to take away from the innovation here.
One of the apps is exactly what you would expect from Starbucks – you can find store locations, hours and features and you can build your regular drinks and share them with friends so they have your order for the next coffee run (for the record the Dunkin’ Run app offered that utility first). It’s clean, it’s intuitive, it’s a great app that we’d expect. The second app however is a mobile version of the popular Starbucks card, and this is where you can glimpse into the future with me. Close you eyes and join along (well, metaphorically. please don’t close your eyes or you can’t finish reading this post.)
In 16 test stores (8 in Silicon Valley and 8 in Seattle) mobile Starbucks card users will actually be able to pay for their orders at point of sale (POS) with their iPhones. Starbucks has installed special barcode scanners that are capable of scanning semacodes, which would be created by the card holder for each order. Quite literally, your iPhone becomes a mobile Starbucks card.
So – why is scanning a barcode innovative you say? Well, conceptually it’s not. But the challenge we have faced with mobile coupons and barcode scanning stem from the fact that the mobile handset emits light and the barcode displayed is an image that is being emitted as part of the light. Current barcode scanners at POS everywhere cannot scan a code on a handset! It is an issue that many smart technologists are working on solving, and present a market-level opportunity. JC Penny, as an example, is the first national retailer experimenting with the deployment of mobile coupon scanners. It’s big news, albeit only a test in 16 stores for now (not sure what’s up with these 16 store tests). The stores required new scanners – to be specific, the Motorola DS9808 digital imager scanner, which can read 1D, 2D and PDF-417 bar codes. I trust that we’ll all agree that once mobile coupons and barcodes can be scanned at (POS) at retail everywhere, we will see another boost in mobile participation from consumers and marketers alike. Call it coupon clipping 2.0. This aint your grandma’s couponing!
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