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The Resurgence of QR Codes

Do you recall how several years ago quick response (QR) codes were on everything? You know what I’m talking about: those square black and white symbols that you could scan using your Blackberry smartphone to learn more about a product? Then they kind of “died” and marketers moved on! That’s how it seems to go with many overhyped trends and technologies.

But this marketing trend is coming back. Let’s take a quick look at why we’re seeing QR codes pop up again then dive into ways you can leverage them for your brand.

Why now?

  • Smartphones have built-in QR code functionality.

Apple installed an active QR code reader in the camera app of its newest phones. That’s right, the latest smartphones have QR code functionality built into their cameras*. You no longer have to download a clunky app and struggle with getting the QR code aligned just right. 

  • More social platforms have adopted QR codes.

From Snapchat to LinkedIn, QR codes are being leveraged on social. Companies such as Target and Amazon Go are using QR codes to make purchasing more convenient and others are using codes as a way to help users automatically follow them on social.

Big brands are keen to harness QR codes as a technique for engaging and converting consumers. As we know, brand experiences are changing and consumers are more and more mobile-centric. Some companies use QR codes to direct users to a microsite or landing page that then has a call to action or offers an immersive experience. A few years ago, for example, Porsche created an interactive experience where people at an expo had the opportunity to customize a car and interact with the model. Scanning a QR code led users to a dedicated microsite, which focused on the personalized vehicle and an “intelligent car configurator.”

It doesn’t have to be that complex of course! Other brands are testing QR codes as a way to help users download promotions, visit a contest microsite, or view a calendar. Any marketer can potentially utilize a QR code by simply directing users to a custom URL.

QR Codes for your business

So what are the implications of QR codes for your brand? How might they help consumers transition from a traditional, physical element into the digital world?

Well, QR codes are encrypted icons that containt links, coupons, event details, and any other information people might be keen to take with them.
Because they have large storage capacity, QR codes have the ability to translate additional information to consumers beyond what creatives or packaging can convey.

Because they’re typically square in shape, QR codes can hold much more data than a barcode. And so they’re used differently. Barcodes often hold key product information, like price and manufacturer. QR codes tend to offer details such as location and URLs to promotions and product landing pages. You can find them on direct mailers, billboards, signs, and even TV commercials.

Maybe you’re in the e-commerce indsutry and you want to create a unique QR code so consumers can scan a coupon or promo to redeem online. I’d wager that’s not a bad idea as, according to Juniper Research, QR coupons redeemed via a mobile device will reach 5.3 billion by 2022.

Maybe you’ve invested in a bus stop ad that promotes your podcast. On that traditional printed ad, you might add a QR code that will bring people directly to your iTunes page (or wherever you stream your podcast.) Similarly, a company could direct people to an app download page. QR codes can even help read and monitor data for newsletters and email marketing. I’m sure you see how there’s lot of opportunities here!

5 Tips for Using QR Codes

  1. Make it convenient to scan.
  2. Make sure there is enough time for consumers to actually scan the code. (I’ve seen billboards with QR codes in the corner and unless you’re stuck in traffic at just the wrong right moment, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to scan a code.)
  3. Optimize the destination page for mobile. This is something you should always do, of course, but it’s doubly important since people will always be on their phone when scanning a QR code and you want to provide a positive mobile experience.
  4. Write a compelling CTA. Not everyone is sure what to do when faced with a QR code so be sure to motivate people with a call to action that prompts people to scan. Basically, be sure the offer is worthwile!
  5. Lastly, don’t use a QR just because it’s trendy! Sure, QR codes are an easy way to bridge the offline experience with the online one but that doesn’t mean they’re always the best option. Consider that you are in fact making someone’s life easier. If your content makes the most sense to be delivered to a mobile user, and you have an appropriate channel to do it, then your QR code will drive more results.

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QR codes offer utility, potential, and are becoming central to mobile marketing strategies. Do you plan on using them in the coming year for any marketing campaigns?

*For those of us without the latest smartphone, there are plenty of free scanning apps out there that will allow you to scan QR codes.

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