Mike Barnett, service products manager for Briggs & Stratton
You may have seen square-shaped barcodes popping up in magazines and on product packaging. Aimed toward mobile phone users, companies are using these Quick Response (QR) codes to direct customers to a website, a calendar appointment, company contact information, a geographical location, or a text message, among other things.
It’s become a popular and successful way for many companies to both engage and educate their customers. It is also taking hold in the outdoor power equipment industry and sometimes lightening a dealer’s load.
Briggs Implements QR Codes
Initially, QR codes were used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing. Briggs & Stratton is now placing the QR codes on their genuine parts and directing consumers directly to the company’s website for installation instructions, related parts and other information. They saw it as an opportunity to help dealers through better educating the customer.
“I’m aware of the spring and summer parts counter scramble,” explains Mike Barnett, service products manager for Briggs & Stratton. “Seasoned do-it-yourself customers are comfortable using flip charts and laminated sheets. Our newest do-it-yourself customers are part of the millennial generation and use a different set of tools. They are very comfortable using their smart phones for everything including alarm clocks, instant social communication, entertainment and research. Briggs & Stratton views QR technology as the next logical step to provide information on demand to do-it-yourself customers.”
In evaluating their plan to incorporate QR codes in their packaging, Briggs took into account that 90% of Americans keep their cell phone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, and that smart phone sales are expected to outpace PCs in 2011 (infotrends.com).
Saving Dealers Time and Efforts
Having better-educated customers can save dealers and their parts departments a considerable amount of time. Customers are more likely to know which repair-related parts they are looking for as soon as they enter the dealership door. That means fewer customers calling and causing service techs to drop everything to answer a simple question about parts and at-home repairs.
“By placing a 2-D barcode on the package, it allows them the opportunity to quickly find ‘How To’ instructions and OEM ‘related parts’,” explains Barnett. “This should help free up some time for parts managers. It helps the customers and will increase efficiency for our dealers.”
Dealers will still be given the opportunity to connect and interact with the customer. The QR codes direct customers online to a list of related parts, but when they want to make a purchase they will still have to visit their local authorized dealer.
“The 2-D URL doesn’t have a shopping cart,” says Barnett. “When the customer searches related parts they will have a good OEM part number ready to give the parts counter. The intent was not to replace one-on-one customer contact. Once a customer enters the threshold of the dealers’ doors, that customer is his to gain or lose. Building one-on-one relationships is the key to a successful business.”
Barnett says the QR codes are just a first step in helping dealers to face the challenges of parts counter management. “The 2-D Bar codes are not a total solution to the parts counter scramble, but it’s a start,” he says. “We will continue to investigate new technologies and reach out to our customer base in new ways.”