QR (quick response) codes have opened up a new avenue for marketers to increase and measure engagement with consumers. With so many uses and tangible benefits, it's no wonder QR codes are becoming more popular each year.
First developed in Japan as a means to track vehicles during manufacturing, these two-dimensional barcodes are now being embraced by a variety of industries. In fact, a recent study on ClickZ.com shows that QR popularity and use has skyrocketed. Between June 2011 and June 2012, consumer QR code scanning rose by 400 percent. June 2012 also saw an average of 120 scans per minute and 4 million first-timers scanning QR codes.
Decoding the trends
In order to measure the impact of QR codes, a recent QR codes use survey by Pitney Bowes asked consumers in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany about their experiences with QR codes.
Results revealed that approximately 15 percent of respondents had used QR codes before. It also showed that QR code use in the U.S. is far ahead of Europe, with almost 20 percent of American consumers engaging in code scanning. With more than 100 million U.S. smartphone users, that means that about 20 million people have now used a QR code. Forrester Research predicts that this number will continue to grow rapidly worldwide and that 1 billion consumers will have smartphones by 2016.
So who's using QR codes? According to the study, QR codes have been used by 27 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds. There is also high usage amongst 25- to 34-year-olds in each country -- a highly desirable consumer age demographic where people are settling into careers and earning higher salaries.
Cracking the code
With all this growth, it's little wonder that marketers are looking seriously at tools that can tap into this massive marketing potential. But what's the best way to use these codes? Placement of QR codes is limitless, but that doesn't mean they should be placed anywhere and everywhere. Clear patterns are already emerging around the most effective implementation.
Surveys show that, on average, most QR code capture comes from print applications. The Pitney Bowes QR codes use survey shows that magazines encourage the highest levels of QR code interaction (15 percent), closely followed by posters and mail (both 13 percent).
This is likely because QR codes successfully bridge the gap between physical and digital media, taking users from a static print advertisement directly to the web and its many possibilities. This digital engagement also allows for quick and easy measurement of advertising success.
In fact, many QR code applications include tracking and analytics capabilities that provide marketers with a vast array of rich information about the progress and capabilities of their campaigns.
As QR codes become more popular, businesses are learning to optimize and measure their success more effectively. They're learning to target the customer segments most likely to have smartphones and using information about their age, purchasing habits, and preferred means of communication to create better, more effective marketing campaigns.
Similarly, location intelligence software enables businesses to identify prime areas to situate QR codes, so that codes and campaigns are targeting the right audience.