Smartphone-touting consumers cruising a Nissan dealership for a new car won't need a salesperson to get lots of information on a fire-engine red 370Z Roadster. Starting with its 2012 lineup, Nissan plans to stick a Quick Response code on the windshield of every vehicle it makes.
People with reader apps will be able to use their phone cameras to scan the black-and-white checkerboard-patterned codes to check key features and available accessories, watch product videos, and get incentives to help in pulling the buy trigger. In addition, potential customers can get prices and see what the dealership has available immediately.
Nissan claims it's the first automaker in the US to commit to using the mobile-marketing tool on its entire next year's lineup. The Japanese carmaker says QR codes can act as a virtual salesperson when people are on a dealer's lot after hours.
Nissan tested the codes in June on the 2012 Altima and Sentra, before deciding to roll them out on all models throughout the fall. With the Altima test, more than 180 people a day watched the product video through their smartphones. "Mobile, and this type of digital information delivery, is the future, so it's just a way for us to be ahead of the game," Erich Marx, director of Interactive and social media marketing at Nissan, says.
Nissan is unlikely to be the only carmaker to take advantage of the marketing muscle of QR codes. The technology has been embraced in selling many products and can be found in retail stores and on billboards, advertising signage, newspapers, Websites, and TV.
For automakers, using QR codes is a no-brainer, given how they will be required on fuel economy and environmental labels mandated by federal regulators, starting with 2013 models. The codes will enable potential car buyers to access online information about how models compare on fuel economy and other environmental stats.
Nissan says the federal requirement was an incentive for also using the codes for marketing. "If we were going to have to do a certain amount of compliance-related activity, there was an opportunity to turn it into a really big plus," Marx says.
The increasing number of smartphone-carrying consumers has led to a rise in the number of people scanning barcodes with their mobile gadgets. Scanning apps were used by 28 percent of smartphone owners in the third quarter of last year, according to the latest survey by marketing researcher Compete. People using Android phones were the leaders at 48 percent, followed by Apple iPhone owners, 39 percent, and BlackBerry users, 14 percent.
Mobio Technologies, which provides a smartphone identity and payment app, says QR code scanning rose 9,840 percent in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year, among users of its technology. The report, released last month, also found the use close to equal among males and females, 53 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
QR code readers are easily available for Android phones and iPhones. QR Droid makes an app for Android, while several iPhone applications are available through the App Store, including ScanLife. Web-based apps for generating QR codes include Kaway QR and QR Stuff.
— Antone Gonsales is a freelance business and technology journalist.