Dipping Your Toes into QR Code Waters
QR codes are a quick and easy method for mobile- and technology-savvy users to access additional relevant and meaningful information. The technology also offers marketers the opportunity to have a truly cross-medium platform in which they can continue the dialogue with their customers. However, brands and marketers must be strategic in their implementation and usage of this emerging technology, because if QR codes are misused in infancy they are at risk for becoming irrelevant.
By Rebecca Johnson, Interactive Strategist, RTCRM
A Quick Response or QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that allows for quick and easy access of data, a URL, video content, coupons, text messages, etc. Smart phones and cell phones equipped with cameras and a QR code reader can either scan or take a picture of the code and then quickly connect the user to additional information and actions on their mobile device.
Originally developed by Denso Wave,7
the technology was intended to help keep track of the thousands of parts used to manufacture automobiles. However, QR codes’ potential applications within the marketing world were immediately obvious: They’re compatible with mobile phones, require small amounts of print real estate and provide an immediate response engagement. So, the codes have evolved into an innovative marketing tactic that allows brands to move consumer dialogues from the offline to the online world.
While extremely popular in Asia, particularly Japan, QR codes have only just begun surfacing within the U.S. marketplace. Paper-based media have been early adopters of this technology, as the codes allow editors and advertisers alike to continue engaging with readers through QR code–accessed webpages, microsites and additional content even after they have put the magazine down. Shops and restaurants are also using QR codes to provide users with location-based information. A good example of this is Google’s Favorite Places8
window decal, which utilizes the barcode to connect users to reviews, menus, coupons and further information about the restaurant, shop or site.
With smart phones set to become the predominant type of mobile device in the U.S. by the end of 2011,9
QR codes will likely become a common method for companies to communicate and share additional information with their customers. In the near future, look for QR codes to expand beyond magazines and newspapers into the consumer packaged goods market, public transportation, doctors’ offices, museums and the apparel industry.Implications and Action Items
- Understand Your Audience’s Mobile Profile: While your targets, or segments of your target, may have the technology capable of reading QR codes, the greater question is, Will/can they actually use it to scan QR codes?
- Create a Valuable and Relevant Interaction: If a consumer’s actions aren’t rewarded, either monetarily or experientially, the user may begin to view QR codes as a waste of time.
- Surprise and Delight: Because the response is hidden within the pixels and data, users are intrigued and curious about what their actions will reveal, and as they scan the code and wait, the anticipation of the response builds and builds.
- Test and Track: Tracking should go beyond response rates and report on the other elements of engagement and interaction that QR codes can elicit.
For some interesting and creative examples of QR codes in action, visit RTCRM’s Interactive Strategy blog at 7 "About QRcode.com" on QRcode.com.
8 "What's that bar code?" on Google Favorite Places website.
9 "Android Soars, but iPhone Still Most Desired as Smartphones Grab 25% of U.S. Mobile Market", nielsonwire blog, August 2, 2010.