If you watched the Home Shopping Network (HSN) this weekend, you might have noticed QR codes appearing in the corner of your screen. These codes are the strangely patterned squares -- similar to bar codes -- that provide data on a product or service when you zap it with your smartphone or tablet.
You've seen the codes littered amongst print publications, in shop windows, and even on restaurant menus. Well now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, the QR codes have come to TV. Scanning the code on your screen brings you to a product page on the network's abbreviated mobile website or to its application, where you can easily link to the checkout page.
QR codes have come a long way since their inception. Major brands like Rachel Zoe and Ralph Lauren have added color and their own logos into the standard black-and-white mix.
The system is very slowly catching on, but other older forms of mobile commerce have become second nature for many shoppers. For example, technology research firm Gartner predicts mobile application downloads will reach 17.7 billion in 2011, up 117 percent from the estimated 8.2 downloads of 2010.
1. Orvis Is On It -The outdoor-adventure retailer is leading the merchandising pack with an upgraded system launched last week for iPhone and Android apps to complement its mobile commerce site. While the apps appear similar to their m-commerce site, complete with an internal search engine, they also include a store locator function that uses smartphone GPS capabilities to identify the closest store.
2. Cashing in With Coupons -Coupons are cool once again, thanks to high prices, low incomes and a certain TLC reality show. One innovative app comes from CouponSherpa.com, which also uses GPS technology, but in this instance to locate nearby coupons. Access is instant and includes bar codes and grocery coupons exclusive to the Coupon Sherpa app. Users can customize coupons based on their favorite stores and products and new coupons are added daily.
3. The Perfect Fit - Macys.com is taking the pain out of shopping for jeans -- at least for women. In early October, the department store chain began offering digital help to recommend clothing based on the shopper's body type. The "True Fit" platform, found on the retailer's e-commerce site, asks women the brands and sizes of pants they already wear and which ones fit best. The user then describes their body type (curvy, boyish, etc.) and Macys.com direct them to a "Shop True to You" section for recommendations based on the data.
4. Subway Orders Up Contactless Payments -You'll still have to deal with a human sandwich-master at Subway stores in 7,000 locations, but you'll soon be able to pay by merely tapping a smartphone against a reader. In partnership with MasterCard and Google Wallet, the sub shop will accept the card brand's PayPass contactless payment by March 2012.
5. Text Your Prescription -More than two-million Walgreens' customers now receive text alerts when their prescriptions are ready for pick up, but the pharmaceutical chain now also sends messages letting subscribers know when it's time for a prescription refill, to which they can simply respond "refill." The new service picks up on the momentum built from the original texts, which included 25 percent of all online prescription refills.
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