QR codes – or “quick response” codes – are two-dimensional bar codes originally used by Japanese car manufacturers for a variety of purposes, including quality control and keeping track of inventory. However, marketing professionals eventually came to the realization that these codes could allow consumers to interact with a particular product or brand via their smartphones. Now QR codes are generally used for promotional purposes, linking smartphone users to promotional offers, websites, email addresses, phone numbers, and other text.
When used correctly, QR codes can be an incredibly effective marketing tool. For instance, a 2013 study from eMarketer stated that 19% (one in five) of American respondents have scanned a QR code. Additionally, a study from Nellymoser stated that customer response rates are higher when using QR codes instead of the more traditional direct mail marketing approach.
However, many businesses haphazardly publish QR codes without strategic planning. Consequently, their QR code marketing campaigns are not as successful as they could be.
How to Use QR Codes to Promote Your Business
To effectively market with QR codes, both small and medium-sized businesses must think strategically – for instance, a common mistake is to offer generic information that any consumer can obtain via Google. In order to increase consumer engagement and drive sales, companies should instead provide custom content that is especially created for consumers at a specific time and place. For example, if a snack food company is advertising its product at a consumer trade show, it can offer booth location information, free samples, and limited discounts via the QR code.
Regardless of where the QR codes are placed, your business needs to implement a plan in which your target market will not only see the codes, but also interact with them. There are a number of tips you can follow to maximize the odds that this end result is achieved.
1. Be Certain That the QR Code Can Be Scanned
In order for your customers to make use of your promotions, you must make sure that your QR code is scannable. After all, what is the point of having a QR code if your customers cannot obtain the intended information? Always test your QR code before using it in a full-scale marketing campaign, and remember that when it comes to QR codes, larger is usually better. Also, try to avoid placing QR codes on highly reflective surfaces, as the glare can interfere with a code scan.
2. Remember to Capture User Information
In order to get the most out of your QR code marketing experience, you must capture (via an email capture form) the emails of consumers who scan your QR code. These tech-savvy consumers are interested in your brand and what your company has to offer – so make a point to remain in touch with them, convert them to customers, and secure their loyalty to your brand. For many consumers, it is essential that businesses develop a relationship with them and build trust before they will make a purchase.
3. Creatively Promote and Display QR Codes
Consumers often tend to ignore advertising unless it provokes their interest – therefore, it’s crucial that you market your QR code in a creative way.
For example, in order to raise awareness regarding climate change in Amsterdam, the World Wildlife Fund printed QR codes directly on ice blocks and displayed them around the city. As the ice was melting, it represented global climate change and instilled a sense of curiosity in the onlookers. When scanned, the QR code linked to the WWF Netherlands website and provided additional information about climate change. It is worth noting that the advertising placement cost the WWF nothing, as there are no local laws that address printing advertisements on ice in Amsterdam.
4. Personalize the Experience
Today, consumers are accustomed to seeing black and white QR codes. However, in order to attract more consumers, you can feature QR codes in various shapes and colors. Companies such as Paperlinks design unique QR codes in shapes including circles and triangles. The cost to produce custom shapes and colors is not too much more than the cost of marketing with traditional black and white QR codes.
5. Offer New and Helpful Information
Instead of offering the same information that is readily available on your company’s website, a QR code should link to new information that is either about or related to the product or service you provide. For example, if you run a gourmet food shop, you can offer information regarding which cheeses and wines make for the best pairing. Of course, you can also explain the subtle taste nuances of both your gourmet cheeses and the wines. In turn, you will develop a relationship with your customers – and they will be more likely to purchase from your company in the near future.
6. Offer Time-Sensitive Discounts
If you would like immediate action from your consumers, offer discounts with a time limit. For example, if you operate an online clothing website, you can offer your customers 30% off one clothing item if they make a purchase that same day. Or, if you run a restaurant, you can offer special lunch discounts via your QR code. Moreover, you can also ask consumers for their email addresses to receive these discounts and, in turn, you can advertise to them again in the future.
7. Place Codes in Locations Where People Either Shop or Have Downtime
Since QR codes can provide consumers with information about a particular product before an actual purchase is made, placing QR codes in retail environments makes complete sense. In addition, these same QR codes can offer coupons, an online shopping option, additional product options, and even comparisons of product prices in competitors’ stores. Furthermore, in some retail environments, you can obtain store product inventory information that includes the quantity, color, and size of the product in question.
QR codes can also be linked to consumer product reviews – and if these reviews are positive, they can help sway consumers toward making an in-store purchase.
Another method to get a large amount of consumers to interact with your QR code is to place codes in areas where people spend a great deal of time waiting. For example, advertising QR codes on buses and in trains, train stations, and airports is an excellent idea, as people often have a vast amount of downtime in such locations or while waiting in traffic.
Used correctly, QR codes can be an extremely effective tool to market to the growing number of tech-savvy consumers. But when used incorrectly, a QR code is simply a waste of time and money. Be careful to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly if you are providing a link to it from the QR code, lest you frustrate and alienate consumers. Additionally, if you advertise a QR code in an area with no cell phone reception or WiFi, you will only waste precious business resources.
What additional tips can you suggest to use QR codes effectively for business?