In 2020 the need to keep distance in social contexts - the so-called social distancing - due to the impact of Covid-19 on the socio-economic fabric has highlighted how it was essential to consciously change our approach in the management and transmission of information, both in terms of private sphere as well as in the public sphere. Digital life has been fundamental to continue interacting and carrying out daily activities, although this has led to evident changes in our habits and our lifestyle, decreasing the physical contacts between supply and demand - thus mutually increasing their autonomy in the exchange of products and services. Among the various functional technologies to facilitate this generational adaptation there was the QR code, a technology that has been known for some time, but which today has entered the foreground in different segments and product sectors of the market: here we will focus specifically on the luxury sector and of fashion, with particular attention to how the QR code was used to optimize logistics and consolidate ties with and within its community.
The QR code: origins and characteristics
Considering the definition of QR code, we can understand how QR codes ("Quick Response") are two-dimensional barcodes composed of modules arranged within square shapes, in which each cryptogram contains 7,089 numeric and 4,296 alphanumeric characters. Compared to the simple barcode, the QR code, being readable - via smartphone - in two directions, allows you to enter much more numerical or text information. The QR code is a technology that originated in Japan in 1994, by the Japanese corporation Denso-Wave: on that occasion, the use of the code was instrumental for optimized inventory management and for tracking parts of Toyota cars. Today, however, the use of QR codes has expanded to all segments and product sectors of the goods and services market, to support the digital experience and provide in-depth information.
The applications of QR codes in the fashion world
In the world of fashion, in addition to the great push in the gamification sector, 2020 has brought an ever greater integration of the QR code into the consumer experience.
The Ralph Lauren Corporation has launched the Digital Product Identities project, which consists of creating born-digital products and inserting the QR code on the product label. From a purely business and logistics perspective, this new project provides information that helps optimize orders and inventory in the context of the supply chain. From a client-oriented point of view, Digital Product Identities aims not only to verify the authenticity of the product in practice, but at the same time allows you to obtain suggestions on styling. The objectives of the Ralph Lauren Corporation also extend to the marketing sector, because this measure allows to increase customer engagement and intensify interaction with them.
If we move from Made in USA to Made in Italy, Izmee, a brand specialized in the production of deluxe thermal bottles, has launched the Iz qwear line t-shirts: these are t-shirts with integrated QR code that allows you to share messages and stay in touch with the people you relate to. It is evident how Izmee goes far beyond the simple direct brand-consumer experience, by including interaction within its own community: the personalization of the information transmitted through the QR code actually offers the possibility of interactions between people who, if not they are loyal customers, they share at least one interest in the brand. In the words of Enrico Acceptola, creator of Izmee, «the new Iz qwear T-shirts are born precisely (…) to encourage the possibility of meeting and interacting with others and developing empathy thanks to new digital technologies».
Although there are many considerations that can be made on the basis of this brief discussion, here I would like to focus on two considerations - particularly important from a sociological point of view. With a careful look at the transformations underway in our information society, the QR code demonstrates how digital life is increasingly moving to the mobile medium, in which information is widely accessible when and where the user prefers, with a high level customization. In the specific case of the fashion industry, a consumer can find multi-level information and select those that are instrumental to rationalizing the decision-making process aimed at purchasing a product during their customer journey. Therefore, the QR code fits perfectly into the information revolution. It is a medium-mediator with the aim of making the physical and digital world interact and approach, creating a hybrid phygital reality, and satisfying the needs of an attentive consumer, aware and eager to actively know the many aspects that characterize the value chain of the carefully selected product.
Translated by Veronica Giustiniani