Quick response or QR codes are a hotly debated topic among digital marketing professionals for good reason. The 2D barcodes when used by a digital device provide an opportunity to reach people immediately. With smart phones and other mobile devices dominating the worlds of both technology and marketing, it stands to reason that the little barcodes which drive engagement with a brand would be considered the ultimate digital marketing tool. Unfortunately, many marketers have all but killed the value of QR marketing through overuse, poor execution, and the lack of any provided value for consumers. Strong supporters continue to back the technology stating that their popularity will continue to grow. Others not so convinced have gone so far as to call them dead.
The truth is somewhere in between. QR codes are a phenomenal tool when used correctly, however when misused, they tarnish the perceived public value of them and can actually hurt a firm more than help one. QR codes should not be used just for the sake of using one, but instead need to be a planned and strategic use that makes them worth your audience’s valuable time.
What Are QR Codes and How Do They Work?
QR codes were first designed in Japan and were used as an inventory control tool for component tracking in automotive factories. Having a larger storage capacity than traditional UPC barcodes, they soon found value by digital marketing firms. Because smartphone apps easily read the codes and converts it to something useful for the consumer. Since these codes were developed, they have been featured on everything from actual products, print advertisements, buildings, and even actual currency.
Unlike traditional barcodes, QR codes can hold information in both horizontal and vertical directions which enables them to hold nearly 350 times more information than the latter. Made of black and white dots, they use Reed Solomon code which makes them much less likely to be misread, even when dirty or damaged.
Benefits of QR Codes for Digital Marketing
The uses for QR codes in relation to digital marketing are many. One of the greatest aspects QR has going for it is the ability for vast versatility. This is demonstrated in a number of ways. Companies are able to direct those using their code to specific actions. You may drive them to your website, a great video, or a social media channel. Or, it may send them to a special offer, coupon, or membership benefit. Perhaps you desire to share product details or specifications. And, customers can even make quick reservations for sponsored events. These and many other features when combined with the explosive use of smart phones and the demand for instant access to information seems to make using them a no-brainer.
Another fantastic feature of the QR codes is that they are completely measurable. Companies can easily track how many people are scanning their codes which helps to focus on their uses of them that work best and generate the most return or conversion. Also, the information or direction the QR takes them can be changed anytime. As one offer expires, for example, the code can simply be changed to direct users to an alternate offer. This can be a huge advantage. Now instead of going through the high expense of printing an advertisement with a coupon, only to have to print again when that expires, companies can simply change the path of their code and no printed materials will be wasted.
Poor Use of QR Codes
Aside from more uncontrollable aspects of poor QR functionality such as lack of consumer education about them or their dependence on smartphone technology, the misuse of QR codes has become problematic. One misuse is placing the codes in unreachable locations. This may seem obvious, but a QR code on a billboard over a busy roadway is probably not going to bring much in way of results, and only increases danger from the motorist who would take the time to pull out their phone and try to capture it through their windshield. Placing codes on walls or advertisements in areas that have phone signal issues is also not the wisest choice.
More commonly however, QR codes are misused in relation to what information or service they provide. Placing a QR code on your website that leads consumers back to the same website for example is not going to win your brand any points. Overuse is also something to be considered. Slapping a code all over your website or using multiple codes on one product can also cause confusion and cause users to walk away.
Using QR Codes Effectively
QR codes when done properly can be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy. Companies both large and small have proven that creatively using QR codes that entice their target audience to scan them does bring some exceptional benefits. Below are some successful QR campaigns that have been done recently.
- Retail ‘Window’ Shopping: Retail companies have used QR codes to generate online sales. By placing a selection of products in a ‘window’ people are able to shop for the featured items without having to enter the store or search through their website.
- Google’s Favorite Places: A marketing campaign by Google selected 100,000 businesses to visit in the United States. Those businesses were given a window decal with a QR code taking customers to a vast array of information about that vendor. This could be a great way to generate digital traffic for any business as well.
- The Intrigue Factor: Many businesses are using QR codes in creative ways as a part of their ad image. Others are using it as a way to generate traffic by promising a reward but not being specific about what it is, or offering a random award value. Getting the better of your target’s curiosity can urge them to scan.
- Libraries, museums, and other similar venues: By including QR codes, libraries can add them to books linking to other resources. Museums can implement them in exhibits to provide more of the story. And others including galleries, theatres, sporting venues and many others provide users an interesting way to grab attention.
- Holiday Personalization: Some companies are adding QR codes to their products allowing buyers to provide a personalized message on the gift they are giving.
There are many ways to use QR codes in many fun ways. The advantages far outweigh the downside and effective use of QR code marketing can be an important factor for many businesses seeking to gain an edge in the competitive realm of digital marketing.
Doing QR Right
If you are unsure how you can best implement QR as part of your overall digital marketing strategy, you are not alone. Many companies have tried and failed in their efforts. But, QR implementation doesn’t have to be scary.
The professional digital marketing team at Cohlab understands what works and how to use QR in a way that boosts your presence and brand recognition and put you ahead of the curve. Smartphones are not going away and ways to interact with the world through them are not either. QR codes are one of these ways and should be on any company’s radar.
Contact us for a free consultation and we would be glad to answer any questions and provide Cohlaborative digital marketing solutions to meet your company’s needs.