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JCPenney taps mobile bar codes to influence back-to-school shopping

Department store chain J. C. Penney Co. Inc.  is bolstering its back-to-school initiative by incorporating QR codes and Microsoft tags throughout multiple consumer touch points such as billboards, subway stations, magazine ads and direct mail.

The company decided to use mobile bar codes after seeing that more consumers are using them to conduct research on items, compare prices, read product reviews and make purchases. JCPenney decided to incorporate QR codes and Microsoft Tags for its back-to-school season and engage consumers in a whole new way.

?We?re always looking for ways create a meaningful connection with our customers and today mobile devices are rapidly emerging as a tool central to the shopping experience,? said Kate Coultas, spokeswoman, for JCPenney, Plano, TX.

?Mobile bar codes offer a convenient and innovative way to connect with customers,? she said. ?Using their phone they are able to find additional details on campaigns, merchandise, trends and more.

?We are enhancing the customer experience by helping them to discover all that JCPenney has to offer.?

JCPenney is a leading retailer operating 1,106 department stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as one of the largest apparel and home furnishing sites on the Internet at

Mobile presence
Event staff at JCPenney?s Haul Nation station experiences, which encourage teens in the mall to film a ?haul? video from JCPenney, will be handing out cards and wearing t-shirts with scannable QR codes.

The mobile bar codes connect customers to a Haul Nation mobile experience.

As part of its sponsorship of the Dew Tour, JCPenney will give select consumers the opportunity to create their own t-shirt to wear to the Dew Tour.

Customers can choose from different designs and the back of each t-shirt will feature a Microsoft Tag that links to the Dew Tour?s mobile site.

Additionally, the company added QR codes to its in-store findmore smart fixtures and consumers can scan the code directly to view an instructional how-to video that educates users on how to scan the mobile bar codes. 

?We are not doing any marketing about having QR codes or Microsoft Tags, but rather they are part of our marketing initiatives ? our customers see them when they view/experience our marketing,? Ms. Coultas said. 

?It?s about catering to the needs of today?s tech-savvy consumers ? we?re focused on unlocking the full digital potential of our shopping channels by leveraging our robust digital leadership to enhance the shopping experience, create a sense of discovery in stores, and to develop deeper, more enduring relationships with the more than half of America?s families that shop JCPenney each year,? she said.

Other marketing initiatives
JCPenney is also using mobile bar codes via outdoor marketing in the Manhattan market.

Microsoft Tags will appear this summer on billboards, bus shelters and subway stations. After consumers scan the tag, they receive an exclusive $10 to $30 coupon offer for use at JCPenney?s Manhattan store.

The mobile landing page also features a listing of current New York events, as well as a store locator feature.

The company is also using in-store marketing in its Dorm Shop area that includes signage, which features a Microsoft Tag and connects consumers to a dorm shopping check list that lets them access the company?s online Dorm Shop directly via the mobile device.

In addition, JCPenney is running back-to-school magazine ads that will appear in Seventeen and People StyleWatch this summer.

The mobile bar codes will direct consumers to its Haul Nation mobile experience.

The company is also using Microsoft Tags in its direct mail pieces that connect consumers to mobile coupons and let customers scan a code next to an item to be connected to the product?s individual product page.

There, consumers can find additional information on the product and share the link with friends and family.

?Over the last few years, we?ve made significant progress transforming our organization to become America?s favorite shopping destination, and this has included building on our powerful ecommerce site to deeply engage consumers through personal and impactful digital experiences that inspire them to discover all that JCPenney has to offer,? Ms. Coultas said. 

?Leveraging a single, integrated digital platform to power the many facets of our business, we?re focused on reaching customers where they are, driving incremental sales in-stores and creating a sense of discovery that not only drives business results, but helps to shift consumer perception of JCPenney to a more modern, relevant and innovative retailer,? she said. 

Final Take
Rimma Kats is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York