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How retailers could skyrocket revenue with one tweak

Retailers are holding on to an ancient notion that in-store marketing should inspire, not get to the point of shopping. QR codes could fix that and boost revenue overnight.



qr codes in marketing

qr codes in marketing

One simple tweak

Shopping at Target recently, I encountered a major frustration that shoppers have had for eras, that a simple tweak to the company’s marketing could completely fix. A tweak that no major retailer is taking advantage of, and the world has made overly complicated – QR codes. Many of you will say to yourself, but you told us that QR codes are a passing trend, and you’re right, but they are useless in most cases because they are poorly used. Let’s talk about one extremely specific use that could boost in-store sales.

In the aisle at Target, I saw print collateral of a beautiful young girl wearing a navy, white, and yellow skirt. I wanted that skirt. I needed that skirt. But look at the photo below and tell me what the problem is with my quest for that skirt:

target retail marketing

Where is the skirt? Is it on the top row near the photo of the skirt? The bottom row? Nope. Is it around the corner? Is it in the section to the right or the left? No. The goal has always been to have images that entice someone to shop around, and as they seek out that item, they will find other items. Okay, I get that, but when you ask a Target employee where that skirt is, they go on the fruitless hunt with you, because they don’t know where the skirt is either.

So I get frustrated, and no one knows that the skirt exists except for the model in the picture. Perhaps it is a tease and I need to order the skirt online. But searching on a mobile is not exactly friendly, no matter what their design team tells you, and reception in the back of the big metal big box is horrendous, so ten minutes into searching online for dozens of variations with the colors, length, and type of skirt ending in no matches, and scrolling through the available skirts became as frustrating as the deer-in-the-headlights employee helping me around the store in hopes that maybe it exists in the toddler section or something.

Mobile failed, in-person failed, and after all of that time I wasted devoted to a Target skirt I didn’t know I cared about in the first place resulted in my putting back the top that I had picked to go with the skirt. I was so over it. I caught up with the family and refused to buy anything for myself. I didn’t even order an in-store Starbucks on the way out.

How retailers fix this

There are two reasons this problem must be fixed after decades of this method of using glossy models to lure you into non-existent products. First, this must stop because the internet exists. Users can look up products online while in the store, and if your mobile site is horrible, they can move on to your competitor and shop them while in your store. Secondly, the Millennial generation proving to be impatient and value a fast experience over a lengthy customer service endeavor, meaning that a helpful sales person is a bonus, but my grabbing a skirt from a shelf underneath where the model told me it should be is more important.

So how do retailers fix this? Easy:
qr code retail marketing

Can you see the tiny difference? With that simple QR code, I could have given an employee a product number or just ordered it online immediately (which I would have). While I have said many times on stage and here at AG that QR codes are mostly a waste of time, this is one use that is legitimately useful.

Why this works – it’s not a gimmick

A QR code used in this fashion is not to lure me in and make me give up my email address or phone number, I don’t have to answer a quiz question or enter some stupid competition or raffle, it doesn’t make me tweet anything, and there is no gimmick, it just allows me to spend money. Imagine a world where QR codes were available to consumers on in-store marketing – not only could people order online (or get online-only options while shopping in store), but could more readily locate items that they want to spend money on.

This isn’t a proposition for big box retailers only, this is a simple and often free measure that any brick and mortar location could use, that is more meaningfully measured than foot traffic or web wanderers.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Jeff Brown

    June 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Lani — Could the code show where that dress is sold for more money than Target, then give Target’s lower price? In industries where ‘showrooming’ is common, that code would work wonders.

  2. laniar

    June 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    @bawldguy that’s a really great idea. My thoughts above are pretty bare boned so that retailers of all size can implement it right away, but you’re right in understanding that other things could be added – comparisons, specials, offers for reduced prices/coupons, etc. which I support so long as it’s gimmick free! Great thinking, Jeff!

    • Jeff Brown

      June 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

       @laniar  @bawldguy The bridal industry is almost a video game for brides. Bridal stores are constantly being ‘show roomed’ by them. The code I suggested would not only help the retail stores, but would educated the brides away from some of the horrendous dresses with which they end up. It’s tragic sometimes.

  3. BrandMover

    July 1, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Sure, at least they should use QR if not AR

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.



Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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Business Marketing

Why you must nix MLM experience from your resume

(BUSINESS MARKETING) MLMs prey on people without much choice, but once you try to switch to something more stable, don’t use the MLM as experience.



Discussing including MLM experience on a resume.

MLM experience… Is it worth keeping on your resume?

Are you or someone you know looking for a job after a stint in an MLM? Well, first off, congratulations for pursuing a real job that will provide a steady salary! But I also know that transition can be hard. The job market is already tight and if you don’t have much other work experience on your resume, is it worth trying to leverage your MLM experience?

The short answer? Heck no.

As Ask the Manager puts it, there’s a “strong stigma against [MLMs],” meaning your work experience might very well put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking through resumes. And looking past the sketchy products many offer, when nearly half of people in MLMs lose money and another quarter barely break even, it sure doesn’t paint you in a good light to be involved.

(Not to mention, many who do turn a profit only do so by recruiting more people, not actually by selling many products.)

“But I wouldn’t say I worked for an MLM,” you or your friend might say, “I was a small business owner!”

It’s a common selling point for MLMs, that often throw around pseudo-feminist feel good slang like “Boss Babe” or a “Momtrepreneur,” to tell women joining that they’re now business women! Except, as you might have guessed, that’s not actually the case, unless by “Boss Babe” you mean “Babe Who Goes Bankrupt or Tries to Bankrupt Her Friends.”

A more accurate title for the job you did at an MLM would be Sales Rep, because you have no stake in the creation of the product, or setting the prices, or any of the myriad of tasks that a real entrepreneur has to face.

Okay, that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as “small business owner.” And I know it’s tempting to talk up your experience on a resume, but that can fall apart pretty quickly if you can’t actually speak to actual entrepreneur experience. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is also not a good look for the job hunt.

That said… Depending on your situation, it might be difficult to leave any potential work experience off your resume. I get it. MLMs often target people who don’t have options for other work opportunities – and it’s possible you’re one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t have much else to put on paper.

In this case, you’ll want to do it carefully. Use the sales representative title (or something similar) and, if you’re like the roughly 50% of people who lose money from MLMs, highlight your soft skills. Did you do cold calls? Tailor events to the people who would be attending? Get creative, just make sure to do it within reason.

It’s not ideal to use your MLM experience on a resume, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, congratulations to you, or anyone you know, who has decided to pursue something that will actually help pay the bills.

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Business Marketing

This smart card manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.



Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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