Anita Wood provides product marketing management and strategic direction for Quadient products, leveraging over two decades of global experience in technology industries, including IT and software development, and in various sectors such as manufacturing, government, advertising, retail petroleum systems and higher education. Throughout her career, she has led in roles such as development analyst, project manager (PMP certified), test engineer, and product manager (Pragmatic Marketing certified). She has also served as Professor and program administrator at Viterbo University, specializing in technology and global strategy.
For those of you who don’t remember (or never knew) the definition of a QR code: it’s a two-dimensional (2D) image that can be read by smartphones with the appropriate app. When scanned, those pixilated little squares can be used to display text, link to a Facebook page or browse to a company website. QR codes can do nearly anything digital, including trigger a phone call. I like to think of a QR code as a right-click on anything physical.
It’s no small thing when people scan a QR code. It’s an act of consumer devotion. People aren’t just browsing items. Suddenly they’re taking a picture of a mailing insert, a store window or a poster. Consumers who scan a QR code are making a declaration of their interest. A QR code done right can turn interest into a sale. Done wrong, the company looks foolish (so no pressure).
Department Store Dummies
Recently, as I walked through a department store, I saw a QR code on a pair of women’s jeans. I immediately became the creepy guy as I stopped and pulled out my camera phone to scan the QR code. A mobile friendly site appeared, giving me the option to shop online for jeans, watch a video or download a mobile app so I could shop or watch said video.
Anyone interested enough in the jeans to scan a QR code could potentially be considered a motivated buyer. A smart marketer would use the QR code to inform the buyer of tops or accessories that would go well with the jeans. Or other products she might like in the same clothing line. The actual execution was subpar. Consumers are smart and most would ask themselves, “Why do I want an ad when I’m already looking at their clothes.” The point here is to use QR codes to BETTER engage the customer. If they already have the product in their hands, showing them a picture, no matter how glossy and wonderful, is just going to make your company look stupid.
Using QR codes effectively
The same rules apply to QR codes in direct marketing .
- Who is the audience
- What are your campaign goals
- What are consumers going to do at the end of the QR code
- Is the offer relevant to the audience and related to the service or product you’re promoting
As to the audience, you have to figure out if the demographic you’re chasing owns smartphones. They also have to be willing to use a scanning application and know how to get one on their phone. The stats on QR codes are a little surprising. Only 13% of US consumers have used a QR code and the adoption demographic skews to the 35-44 year-old segment, slightly more female than male. When I think QR code, I think techy, geeky, male and young, that’s just not what the research shows.
Campaign goals are probably the most important factor to consider when picking how the QR code is applied. If the campaign’s purpose is to add to your contact list, then you probably want to move in the direction of offering a white paper or some sort of special deal. If your goal is to convert a QR code into a sale, then a coupon or some sort of enticement would work. The point here is to figure out the desired result and pick a QR strategy that best steers your audience towards that goal.
Another key consideration
QR codes can make rich and relevant interaction with the consumer possible and they do it quickly. A QR code should add value to the consumer. If you’re still not convinced of QR code’s marketing value, keep in mind that QR codes are still new and “techy”. The gee-whiz factor alone is enough to get some to scan a QR code. Hype matters, so don’t dismiss the coolness factor of new technology!