QR Codes Are Here to Stay [Data]

5 Ways QR Codes Meet Marketing Needs

QR codes are the glue that connects offline media in its broadest sense to online, namely mobile, with a snap of your smartphone (of course you must have a QR code reader installed.) While QR codes aren’t mainstream yet, they’re past the early adopter phase. A little more than one out of four smartphone owners has scanned a bar code according to Compete’s November 2010 research. This is consistent with ScanLife’s findings that both 1D (UPC code) and 2D (QR code) barcodes scans increased in 4Q2010. Further, ScanLife’s findings that the number of women scanning increased 13% and the 35-54 age group increased 25% shows that barscans have moved beyond the early adopter phase.

Of course, increased QR code penetration and use is dependent upon increased smartphone penetration, particularly new devices that come with QR code readers pre-installed, reducing the need to educate your audience.

5 Ways QR codes meet marketing needs

Marketers should incorporate QR code placement into their communications mix because they meet consumer needs.

  1. QR codes enable price comparison. This tops consumers’ reasons for scanning across a variety of research findings, including ScanLife’s. Price comparison, however, can be a double-edged sword for marketers, since it trains customers to look for the best price and can sway them to buy from competitors. Therefore, promote your house brands where your margins are higher or bundle products so that it’s difficult to tell a specific product’s price. Also, be aware that clear plastic wrap can hinder scan usage.
  2. QR codes display product reviews. Remember, customers trust other customers and they read about other shoppers experiences with your product before they buy. Use QR codes to connect potential customers to this marketing content.
  3. QR codes distribute coupons. While customers are comparing prices before buying, why not offer them an added incentive to close the deal while they’re in your store? Since this may train customers to wait for the best price, try offering deals for future purchases or incentives to shop online.
  4. QR codes provide additional product details. Research shows that shoppers use their smartphones while they’re in a store to get more information. Use QR codes to provide the useful content they seek. This content can help customers post-purchase by giving them details your collateral doesn’t contain. For example, show them how to use your product or provide recipes or instructions. Leverage this additional content to upsell customers.
  5. QR codes supply purchase specifics. QR codes give shoppers information about your store on the go. In some cases, users may be able to purchase directly from their smartphone.

3 QR code marketing challenges

While the time is ripe for incorporating QR codes into your marketing content, here are three challenges of which you should be aware.

  1. QR codes require a smartphone with QR code reader software. While U.S. smartphone penetration is currently about 30%, only new smartphones come with a reader pre-installed. Older phones require the user to download a QR code reader from an app store or market, which may be a stumbling block to usage.
  2. QR code usage isn’t intuitive. Since it’s still the early days of QR codes, add a call-to-action and explanation for how to use QR codes so viewers understand what’s in the QR code and what’s expected of them. Depending on the environment, it may be useful to provide a short how-to demonstration or explanation.
  3. QR codes require connectivity to work. If your QR code contains a URL then you must consider its placement. Recently, Jet Blue received negative reviews on their advertising campaign in the New York City subway system where there’s no cellphone reception underground. (That said, the ads still show that JetBlue is on the leading edge and reenforce similar ads used where consumers do have Internet access.)

As a marketer, now is the time to start testing QR codes to determine how your prospects and customers use them and what information they’re searching for.  Since it’s still early in the usage cycle, expect QR code metrics to be low but, at a minimum, it will help your marketing evolve while showing consumers that you’re using leading edge technology.

Have you incorporated QR codes into your marketing mix? If so, what have you learned? Please share your perspective in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: Vitor Baptista via Flickr

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