Are QR Codes Dead? [Charts]

5 QR Code Challenges for Marketers

While QR codes have been popping up all over marketing collateral, buildings and other objects, do they really work for marketers?

Before answering this question, consider the following data.

  • Two out of five US mobile owners have a smartphone, according to Nielsen.
  • One out of three consumers know what a QR code is, according to Simpson Carpenter’s recent survey of online respondents.
  • One out of fifteen American mobile users scanned a QR code on their mobile device according to comScore.

3 Consumer QR code hurdles

If you’re planning to use QR codes in your marketing, understand this behavior isn’t second nature to most consumers.

  1. Consumer must want the information at the other end of the QR code. Like other forms of marketing, a QR code won’t work unless the prospect or customer wants your information. For newer methods of engagement, you may need to offer them an incentive.
  2. Consumer must have a smartphone. Even if the consumer wants your information, they need to have an appropriate device to be able to get it. Depending on your target audience, smartphone ownership may not be a given.
  3. Consumer must have a QR code scanner installed. Another stumbling block, in addition to motivation and correct type of device, is that the consumer must have installed a QR code reader. If you have additional space adjacent to the QR code, explain how to download an app, incorporate one in your mobile app or website, or send the user a shortened URL via a text message.

5 QR code marketing challenges

As a marketer, here are five questions to ensure your QR code marketing maximizes its effectiveness.

  1. Can the QR code be read? Consider the surrounding background since it can impede the scanner’s ability to read the QR code. Additionally, think about the QR code’s location. For example will the QR reproduce with sufficient clarity or does the QR code appear in a location without connectivity such as a subway car.
  2. Is a relevant call-to-action included? Don’t forget to incorporate a message to encourage passers-by to scan your QR code. You can’t assume that they’ll know what to do. To this end, include short directions.
  3. Is the associated landing page optimized? Think user experience (UX). Ensure that the landing page or other information is easily readable on a mobile device. Consider what information the person scanning the QR code is looking for. This can vary significantly if QR code is on a product in your grocery store or in a shop window.
  4. Do you offer non-smartphone carrying prospects an alternative method for getting more information? Extend the reach of your marketing materials by offering alternative channels to provide additional information to prospects. Use a shortened URL and/or phone number. Remember your goal isn’t increasing QR code usage but rather supporting information distribution and/or sales.
  5. Have you created a unique tracking code? To determine the effectiveness of your QR codes, incorporate tracking information to measure how many people used your QR code. [Here’s more information on QR code metrics.] Additionally, put in place related tracking associated with tailored landing pages to measure how many of the prospects who scanned the QR code, took the next step.

While these QR challenges may seem insurmountable, don’t lose faith. They’re worth your marketing investment since they can work in environments where other marketing efforts can’t. Roughly 65% of consumers who scanned a QR were in a retail or grocery store according to comScore. QR codes let you be where your prospects are. Even more importantly, one out three scanned a QR code on product packaging. This is a way for manufacturers to deliver information direct to their prospects regardless of the retail outlet. Additionally, one out of ten scanned a QR code in a store window; this is a way to get information to prospects after hours. As this data shows, QR codes extend your ability to engage and offer useful information to prospects that you might not reach otherwise. Therefore, while the overall numbers are still low, QR code usage is growing in areas where other marketing formats can’t break through.

The bottom line is that most consumers still can’t use a QR code even if they recognize a QR code and want the information associated with it. This is simply because they don’t have a smartphone. That said, since QR codes are a space efficient way to provide consumers with additional related information that helps them at times and places other marketing doesn’t, why not start testing and building engagement with your more tech-savvy prospects?

What’s your opinion about QR codes? Are they really dead as a marketing tool?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Here are some related articles on QR codes, mobile and shopping you may find helpful.

Photo credit: MarketRumba via Flickr

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