AT&T Mobile Barcode Services…Let’s Try That Again

Last week, AT&T issued a press release titled, “Scan a Mobile Barcode, Unlock a New Brand Experience: AT&T Mobile Barcode Services.” But, this is not the first we have heard from AT&T about their code platform. Earlier in the year, I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) regarding the company’s beta test of the platform, so perhaps this is to be considered as the official launch of the service offering. If that’s the case then I have a number of questions/comments for AT&T.

To begin, in the recent press release, the company states, “Following a successful technology trial launched last year, AT&T announced the availability of AT&T Mobile Barcode Services, which allow businesses to create, publish and manage 1D (UPC) and 2D (QR and Data Matrix) barcodes.” Of course the company is not going to divulge the results of its beta test but, how serious was the “technology trial?” Granted, I do not have the capability of seeing every last 2D campaign on the market, but living in a major metro area like New York, and having feelers out across the country, I see my fair share. The only AT&T-based campaign I ever saw, and am aware of, was for Starz, the cable station. Has anyone seen another?

Irregardless of how successful the trial may or may not have been, and as much as it appears as though the company wants to compete in the 2D space, there are a number of limitations and/or concerns with AT&T’s code platform. First, the platform can only generate Data Matrix Codes. Although AT&T told me they went with Data Matrix because it is an open-source code, why wouldn’t they choose QR Codes, which seem to be more popular here in the U.S.? Second, to read AT&T generated Data Matrix Codes, only AT&T’s code reader app can be used. Doesn’t this then make AT&T’s platform more proprietary and less open source? Third, on the company’s Create-A-Code website, a company and/or individual can only generate a contact (vCard information) or website (URL) based code. To know that there are a number of other types of codes that can be generated (e.g., bookmark a website, send an SMS, make a phone call, send an email, vCalander event, Google map, free formatted text), why would a company and/or individual limit themselves to this platform? Fourth, code analytics are minimal at best. The only item that can be tracked and reported on is number of scans per code by day of week.

Not that I am trying to punch holes in AT&T’s 2D-based service offering but, why would a company like AT&T come to market with what appears to be a sub-par platform? In reading the company’s press release and website, it sounds as though they really want to help companies market themselves via the technology, but talk is talk. Why not come to market with a service offering that blows the doors off the competition?

Lastly, AT&T states, the “AT&T Code Scanner gives people the incentive they need to start exploring the world of mobile barcodes.” For a potential customer/user of the platform (i.e., an advertiser), I believe this sends the wrong message. A scanner app should not serve or be viewed as an incentive to a consumer, the offer, value, benefit and experience delivered via the code-based campaign is what will or should provide the incentive. No?

(Thank you, Matthias Galica, CEO of ShareSquare)

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One thought on “AT&T Mobile Barcode Services…Let’s Try That Again

  1. It's an attempt by a carrier to join a game that is by definition cross-carrier – or even non-carrier, when you go WiFi. No realistic chance of success as no value-add vs. the hundreds of competing offers.

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