Tuesday 21st Nov 2017 - Logistics Manager

Cranfield report highlights app scan failures

Tests of mobile phone scanning apps by supply chain experts have highlighted major problems – and some hilarious inaccuracies. Cranfield’s professor Richard Wilding said: “Third-party, generic smart phone apps used to scan and source data did not perform well.”

The report by Cranfield School of Management and GS1 UK questions the ability of Britain’s data infrastructure to support the development of mobile telephone “apps” that provide consumers with additional product information.

* One app when scanning the bar code of a leading brand of cornflakes provided information about dog bowls.

* When scanning another barcode for thick sliced bread, information about a disposable latex gloves dispenser was provided.

The report highlights the results of research which examined the quality of product descriptions and image data available in three of iPhone’s most downloaded third-party, generic barcode scanning apps. Only nine per cent of scans returned the correct product description when compared with the approved data.

Richard Wilding, professor of supply chain strategy at Cranfield School of Management said: “During our research, some amusing examples of incorrect data were identified. For example, when scanning the bar code of a leading brand of cornflakes, one app provided information about dog bowls. When scanning another barcode for thick sliced bread, information about a disposable latex gloves dispenser was provided.

“There’s a clear need here for industry to collaborate so that product data is accurate, up-to-date and standardised across supply chains, stores and online.

“Apps specific to UK retailers performed extremely well with regard to the accuracy of product data. Third-party, generic smart phone apps used to scan and source data did not perform well, with 9 out of 10 scans returning incorrect product description when compared to the brand owner’s data. This is a real concern when you consider that some consumers are trying to locate product information for health reasons.”

Three-quarters of scans returned no product information at all and 87 per cent of scans returned no image. In instances when information was returned, product information was wrong one in five times.

The study also looked at the consumer impact of the lack of accurate and trustworthy product data. Half of those consumers surveyed said they needed an accurate description and image to feel confident that the product is the right one. A third of consumers said they would not buy the product if the app data is inaccurate.

Professor Wilding said: “There is an emerging trend in utility apps that help 21st century ‘savvy shoppers’ make better informed choices before buying. The key to making these services credible though is to provide accurate product information that consumers can trust.”

Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK said: “Multi-channel retailing and the increase in use of mobile devices have made mobile services an attractive opportunity for retailers. However the ‘Mobile-Savvy Shopper’ report clearly shows that there is a huge problem with missing and inaccurate product information which consumers are very sensitive to. We found that only 17 per cent of consumers would buy a product if they don’t feel confident about the data they receive; and one in three would stop using an app altogether if they can’t find the information they need.”