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The Rise of QR Code Usage and Why Marketers Should Care

The Rise of QR Code Usage and Why Marketers Should Care Sarah Fay
If you haven’t noticed, quick response (QR) codes – those black and white squares that look a bit like ink blot personality tests – are everywhere.  We see them on billboards, packaging, in magazines, store windows, and just about anywhere a brand’s message can be placed.  The reason they are increasingly being included in marketing programs is the high rate of engagement they offer for a very low price. According to Tempkin Group (2012), a full 24% of consumers have used QR codes.  And, more than half of those who have scanned a mobile barcode say that they would do so again according to marketing company Russell Herder.

According to research from independent analyst house, IDC, smartphone shipments grew 54.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, and smartphones now represent more than 50 percent of mobile phones in the US. There is no doubt that the growing number of smartphones is directly related to increased awareness of and interactions with QR codes, and this is growing substantially.

Marketers using QR Codes can benefit from drawing consumers in, and gaining permission for future loyalty-based communications.  According to recent research from Smith’s Point Analytics, the demand for action-oriented, proximity-based marketing solutions grew exponentially in 2011 and is poised to expand to $2.3 billion by 2016.   With users actively accessing social media platforms and the internet using their mobile devices, marketers need new tools and methods such as QR codes for effectively capturing their attention, and offering content worthy of social sharing.  Therein lies the real challenge…

This rapid growth of smartphones and use of QR codes has created fertile ground for brand engagement, however the user’s experience is a major concern and will be a deciding factor in the overall adoption and success of QR technology. We are still in the early days, and QR code critics will tell you the average experience is less than satisfactory.  In fairness, in most cases it is mistakes by marketers that have led to poor consumer experiences. For example, many QR codes are being used on advertisements in subways where there isn’t a cellular signal, or they are placed high up on billboards, making it nearly impossible for people to scan. Ease of use and timing is absolutely paramount and should be considered throughout every stage of development. Marketers need to understand the best ways QR codes can be used to deliver great experiences and value to customers, as this will ultimately be key for successful use.

For real success using QR and 2-D codes, it is important that the code being used is compatible with a number of mobile devices, to maximize reach. Marketers should also consider an end-to-end mobile barcode scanning app that offers commercial track-and-trace technology for complete visibility and ROI evaluation of the campaign. Having the opportunity to analyze each scan gives marketers greater customer insight than has ever been possible.

As more brands look to migrate from 1D to 2D deployments, they need to stay one step ahead of consumers’ expectations, by putting creativity and innovation at the forefront of everything they do. Continued consumer adoption and usage is key, and for that reason, the future of QR codes rests heavily on how marketers deploy them.

A quick punch list of best practice for using QR codes:

  • Plan ahead – ensure that mobile barcodes are incorporated into digital and traditional media as a key element in the campaign

  • Design with the consumer in mind – consumers generally only opt in to receive communications from brands when they perceive that it will be relevant or deliver value to them, by means of giveaways, discounts, information or services based on entertainment or utility

  • Design and placement – placement in the design of an advertisement is of paramount importance to ensure a strong response from targeted consumers

  • Color – mobile barcodes should be printed in black and white to facilitate scanning by the majority of camera equipped mobile devices and their mobile code readers

  • Branding –including a logo or image can damage the integrity of the code, making it difficult for consumers to scan

  • Open scan – it is important to deploy solutions using global, open standards as the use of proprietary solutions may curtail universal customer access, impacting market penetration and overall reach

  • Education – consumers are willing to adopt new technologies but marketers must deploy them in such a way that they are understandable and easy to use

  • Optimize for mobile – it can be frustrating for a consumer to try and navigate PC-designed websites from a mobile device given the amount and size of page content

  • Test and test again – consumers will be deterred from using mobile barcodes if they initially have an unsatisfactory experience

  • Define your objectives – the ability to analyse and measure the campaign data can be used to increase the success and ROI of future campaigns and ensure optimal and continued customer engagement

  • Plan for consumer engagement – plan how you will continue to maintain the dialogue with target consumers and plan for it early to bolster consumer satisfaction and repeated interactions

Sarah Fay is a veteran of the media services industry. In her more than two decades of experience, she has developed and implemented groundbreaking new models for advertising and media. Over the course of her career, Fay has become a well-known...

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