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Citysearch made a recent announcement that it will partner with Scanbuy to offer a mobile application that lets users get information and promotions about local businesses by scanning bar codes placed outside their locations.

Technically, it’s not a bar code scan but more of a picture that is being taken (camera phone required) and read by the application (download required). The company is largely in an experimental stage with the product and has bar codes like the one below placed on about 500 San Francisco restaurants and billboards.

Currently bar codes will take users to a mobile version of the Citysearch page for a given business, including all its standard content and features (promotions, business information, user and professional reviews, etc.)

“Citysearch is driving consumers to businesses doors every day,” said VP of Product Strategies Rob Angel in a conversation earlier. “This gives access to Citysearch content in another way. They can find out special offers or reasons to interact with a business. It’s also a tangible way for advertisers to get impact from Citysearch in driving people in the door.”

The New Outdoor Advertising

In some ways this is an evolution of the centuries-old practice of hanging a menu outside restaurant windows. Think of it as a last push to get consumers in the door when they are already in close proximity and have shown at least some interest in a business.

It also opens up some tracking possibilities in having users redeem offers that they found through the mobile application. But a great deal of the ROI will be seen anecdotally, contends Angel, as proprietors see people snapping pics outside, milling around, and/or entering the restaurant or bar.

For these advertisers, it won’t come with any additional cost or upsell just yet. It could end up being a value add to the existing Citysearch ad spend and an enticement to its value proposition. But none of this has been determined yet, as the rollout is still in pilot phase.

Keep it Simple

Stepping back, this is another example of the new mobile creativity and innovation that is starting to take form (see mobile social post yesterday) to drive mainstream adoption. One driver will be enabling technologies that make it easier to use mobile search apps (location awareness, for example). This product can be considered in the same boat because it replaces opening and navigating a mobile browser with the more user-friendly action of snapping a picture.

We’ll see how it does, as will Citysearch. This type of thing has been speculated about by local search watchers here and there, and has been seen to work in some Asian markets. Adoption is the issue (at least in this country), and the question is whether now is the right time. The time could be soon, as improving device standards and application development drive down traditional adoption barriers and get more people used to the idea of searching for local content on their phones.

Citysearch, for one, is interested in continuing to have the mobile device be an outlet for its content and has a few more projects in the works that it will be ready to talk about soon.



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It should also be noted that:

    Scanbuy’s indirect resolution process, which they use for their proprietary EZcode, is infringing on NeoMedia Technologies’ core patents.

    Scanbuy uses the indirect encoding method for their barcode resolution process.

    Indirect encoding (patented by NeoMedia) is the process of linking the target information to an index (364528 for example) and putting that unique identifier into a 1D UPC/EAN or 2D barcode. The code reader on the mobile phone reads the barcode and sends the code data over the Internet to a central resolution server that will tell the mobile phone what action is associated with the index, i.e. access a URL, download media, initiate a phone call, ect.

    NeoMedia Technologies has a suite of twelve issued patents covering the core concepts behind linking the physical world to the electronic world dating back to 1995.

    NeoMedia brought suit against Scanbuy in 2004. Litigation has been ongoing.

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