Everyone seems to be buzzing about QR (Quick Response) codes these days, as they’re popping up at an increasing speed everywhere from Best Buy stores to fashion magazines. So let’s take a moment to review what they are, who is using them (both consumers and brands) and note some strategic recommendations for developing a campaign that includes this technology.
What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is one type of a two-dimensional barcode that anyone with a camera on their phone and the appropriate mobile app can scan and use to access data. Most often, this data gives more information about the product, whether it’s pricing, how the product works or any other relevant educational and/or entertaining information. They enhance the overall customer experience by enabling quicker and easier knowledge, while also increasing engagement with the brand. According to research conducted by MGH, they are most commonly seen on products, in magazines and on coupons. Here are two examples of 2-D barcodes: (1) integrated within a Richards Group print ad for Ram and (2) included next to a product tag in a Best Buy store.
While there have been more than 70 different types of tags developed, QR codes and Microsoft Tags are two primary tags to know about in this space. QR codes are open source and readable by all tag readers (including ones often preinstalled on Androids), whereas Microsoft Tags are proprietary and only readable by a Microsoft Tag Reader. However, Microsoft Tags offer rich tracking metrics, including location data, and can be customized to match your brand identity, like the one below for Dentyne Ice that incorporates their campaign within the code to attract users to scan and watch the witty video on YouTube.
How Many Consumers Are Scanning?
With all the hype around mobile scanning, it’s important to take a step back and note that according to MGH, 32% of smartphone owners have scanned a code, which translates to less than 10% incidence among all mobile phone owners. But with eMarketer predicting smartphone penetration to increase from 28% to 43% by 2015, we can expect scanning behavior to increase as well. Not surprisingly for a new technology, users tend to be more affluent, so the use of these codes in campaigns is best suited for brands that appeal to a more upscale, tech-savvy consumer. It’s also important to note that according to a Compete study, Android owners are the heaviest users of barcode scanning apps, so this should not be developed solely for the iPhone.
1. Provide a strong call to action with an explanation of the scanning benefits. Why should a consumer take the time to do this? What will they get out of it? This Home Depot print ad is a great example of doing just that.
2. Include (a) instructions on how to get a code reader and (b) the URL to the mobile site for consumers who do not have scanning capabilities (remember, more than two-thirds of mobile phone owners do not own smartphones).
3. Enable sharing capabilities. If you have people scan to watch a cool video featuring your product, why not encourage them to share it on Facebook or via email?
As someone who almost started a career in the magazine industry but was ultimately drawn to digital instead, it’s fascinating to see the two media intersecting as they are right now with this technology. True integration at its finest, and it will be fun to see it continue as consumer adoption increases.