It is common for retailers and merchants place QR codes on products, advertisements, shelf labels, in-store signage, and even receipts. These QR codes usually direct consumers to a promotional offer or product information. The marketing text surrounding the QR code explains why the customer should scan the QR code. These promotional ‘calls to action’ take up valuable marketing space wherever they are placed and each is tracked to determine their effectiveness.

The tracking done by merchants and retailers has generally been to look at the number of scans done and correlating that with some other piece of measured performance improvement. The ultimate measurement of performance for any merchant would be tracking the QR code to an actual purchase at the Point of Sale. Until recently, tracking any digital marketing such as a QR code scan to a physical purchase has had major challenges.

In order to track a digital promotion to the physical purchase, a unique token must be issued to the device and then transferred to the Point of Sale during purchase. These tokens are generally referred to as coupons, loyalty cards, vouchers, etc., and in the physical world they are usually stored in your wallet as a paper or plastic card. In the digital world, mobile wallets are just getting off the ground partly because the infrastructure to issue and redeem items into them has not been fully developed. NFC wallets have proven to be an ongoing disappointment with too many actors trying to create and control a closed loop system.

Successful mobile wallet implementations such as Apple’s Passbook® are based on 2D barcodes that can be openly redeemed with the right scanning hardware. The coupons, vouchers, loyalty cards in Passbook can also be issued into the wallet through open channels such as mobile web pages. This creates the opportunity for merchants and QR code marketers to place a promotional offer in the form of a Passbook pass on a mobile web page behind a QR code and track that scan all the way through to a customer using that Passbook pass at the Point of Sale. Simple right?

Not so fast! If the merchant is outfitting their Point of Sales for barcode-based redemption anyway, there are still challenges to what seems like a conceptually straight forward solution. First, not every QR Code scanner supports the Passbook file type. Second, IOS7’s new Passbook code scanner does not support mobile web pages. Third, the Passbook pass needs to be issued uniquely so as to determine whether the promotion was actually downloaded or simply shared.

Challenge 1: Not every QR code scanner supports the Passbook file type!
One cannot control which scanner the consumer uses when they are confronted with a QR code since the app store contains hundreds of QR Code scanner apps. A number of QR code scanners have millions of installs, while many others have significantly fewer. The most a QR code marketer can do is recommend a scanner to the consumers who do not yet have one installed yet.

When the QR code scanner scans a code, it launches a page in either Safari® or an internal web window within the scanning app itself. A problem arises if the page is loaded within the scanning app since the Passbook file type is enabled by default. If the page is loaded in Safari, then the Passbook file type is detected by Passbook app and can be clicked and installed. Unfortunately, in order to make advertising money, many of the QR code scanning apps on the market are opening QR code scans in the internal window, and not enabling Passbook files.

The solution is to select a QR code marketing platform that has Mobile Wallet Detection technology to detect if the pass can be installed, and if not, to issue instructions on how to launch Safari so it will work.

Challenge 2: Apple’s IOS7’s Passbook code scanner does not support mobile web pages!
The lack of support for Passbook files within the majority of QR code scanners may have prompted Apple® to add its own code scanner to Passbook. While the ability to instantly add a pass to Passbook through a QR code scan is a great feature, it does require extra work on the QR code marketer’s part.

The problem is essentially this. If you present a QR code that points to a mobile webpage and scan it with Passbook’s code scanner, Passbook will say the “Code cannot be read”. If you point the QR code to a Passbook file, however, it will instantly load the pass into the wallet.

On the other hand, if you present a QR code that points to a mobile web page and scan it with a standard QR scanning app, it will launch the web page; however, it will fail if you point the QR code to a Passbook file. The merchant therefore has two options. They can present two QR codes side by side and try to explain to the customer what to scan with which app. A better option, though, would be for the merchant to use a QR code marketing platform that has Mobile Wallet Detection technology. Mobile Wallet Detection technology points the wallet scanner and the standard app scanner to the right file or the right page.

Challenge 3: The Passbook pass needs to be issued uniquely so as to determine whether the promotion was actually downloaded or simply shared.
Passbook passes can be shared by email and other methods to be launched with IOS7. Should a merchant want to limit a voucher or track the individual serial numbers of each pass issued through the QR code, then a pass management system is required to track installs and make real-time updates to passes that are shared between people. Simply adding the same Passbook pass file statically to a mobile web page will not work for any retailer who not only wants to track the redemption to the scan but who also wants to track individual installs.
Finding a QR code marketing platform that has Mobile Wallet Detection technology as well as support for Passbook would be the way to go.

In conclusion, merchants and retailers need to work with the right QR code marketing platform if they want their customer’s experience to be a satisfactory. You should not attempt to use a free QR Code generator and build your own web page if you want to issue passes into your customers’ mobile wallet.