Although QR codes have been around since the 90s, the last decade has seen them shift to become more widely considered marketing assets. QR codes hold more information than a traditional barcode and act as a scannable link that connects the physical and online world. Let’s take a look at how to use QR codes in your marketing strategy.
What are QR codes
QR, short for Quick Response codes are square, black and white barcodes used to store machine-readable information. As inferred by their name, the information stored within is quickly read by smartphones, making them a valuable addition to anyone’s marketing toolkit. Think of QR codes as a signature you can add to both physical and digital assets, which directs readers to a landing page or website of your choice.
Why QR codes are the link between your on and offline marketing efforts
Although these codes have been around for 30 years, their sudden skyrocket in popularity over the past number of years is due to two major innovations, the mobile phone, and the internet. These turning points in technology were integral to the effective use of QR codes, which isn’t all that surprising, considering that in 2018, not only did 2.3 million people own a smartphone, but they spent roughly 3 hours on it each day.
As we all know, this sweeping increase in mobile phone and internet usage has changed the face of modern marketing, placing more emphasis on digital strategy and communications than ever. The gap that now needs to be bridged is the ability to track the effectiveness of our offline marketing efforts, online.
Enter, QR codes.
Offline marketing presents valuable opportunities for you to gain brand visibility in ways online marketing can’t. However, given that it often calls for third-party printers and suppliers, these campaigns can be costly and require a big time commitment. Adding to this the difficulty associated with tracking their effectiveness, the results of these investments can often disappear into the abyss.
When you’re able to connect your on and offline marketing efforts, you can tell a stronger brand story, give your audience the opportunity to learn more about your product or service, and track your marketing efforts as a collective unit, rather than in silos. QR codes just might be one of the answers to bridge this gap.
Why are QR codes gaining popularity?
Over the span of three months in 2011, it was reported that 20.1 million mobile phone users in the U.S. scanned a QR code. Although this number seems low, it’s a 1,253% increase from the previous year. Most of these scanned QR codes were created to lead audiences to a website, but they can also be used to share a map within Google Maps or even a video. In the U.S. and Europe, usage and adoption of the codes have been slower when compared to many Asian countries, although 34% of all U.S. smartphone users say they have used one over a one year span. It is estimated that in 2016, more than $1.65 trillion of transactions in Asia used QR codes and almost a third of all mobile payments in China.
The statistics do show that QR code usage is growing, but there has still been a major barrier that has been the roadblock to its wider adoption. The main point of using a QR code in your advertising is to create a smoother and more convenient user journey to your brand, but up until September 2017, users were required to download and use a third party app to scan the barcode, which severely impacted its popularity. However, with Apple’s release of iOS 11, QR codes have become native in the camera. This means that as soon as a QR code is scanned with an iPhone or iPad with at least iOS 11 installed, the link will directly open up in the web browser, Safari. This development unlocks the potential for QR codes to take off to the same extent they did in the Asian market- especially in the American market, where 43% of mobile phone users use an iPhone.
Since this is a relatively recent update, it will take time for QR codes to gain full traction and adoption among western consumers. This means that there’s a huge opportunity for brands to get ahead of the wave while gaining more insights into their current advertisements, both on and offline.
How to use QR codes in your next marketing campaign
There are a few ways that marketers can take advantage of these scannable codes. While you might not think it, QR codes can be integrated into most marketing materials.
QR code for business cards
Include a QR code on your business card that leads to your website, resume, portfolio, most recent product release, or app download. Since a QR code is printed, and this is a link you’ll want to update often you might want to consider using a link management system. With a tool like Rebrandly, you can update where the link goes in real time, with QR code on your cards, as well as get detailed analytics on any interactions with it.
QR codes used for conferences and meetups
Include a QR code on your name tag, or shirt. Then people can scan it rather than taking a business card, just in case they misplace it. This reminds and encourages people to learn more about what you do.
How to use a QR code on Infographics
Since these can be printed or shared digitally, QR codes can act both as your digital signature and a place for your audience to learn more about what you do. Since most infographics are shared online and often saved as images, they can appear on their own across the web, without a link back to your site. To increase your brand awareness, no matter if your infographic ends up in an external blog post or in Google image result, include both a branded link and a QR code. When you use a branded link, your brand, and where the link will lead appears right on the infographic, making it memorable to type in, while always linking the content back to your site. The same goes for a QR code. When they are used together, you ensure all assets you create a link back to you.
Including QR codes on swag
This one goes along with conferences and meetups. At trade shows, we tend to hand out something memorable and tangible for guests to take home. Add a QR code to the keychain, pen or whatever you’re giving away. When they’re back in the office they’ll have time to do more research on your company.
QR codes in print advertising
Many major b2c brands have been taking advantage of QR codes for posters. It allows you to create a more visual advertisement and is the clearest example of connecting off and online advertising. When the code is scanned, it could lead to a “find out more” style video, or a page to purchase. It’s particularly good for print ad’s because rather than overwhelming the viewer with copy, keep it light, and prompt them to learn more online. This is also extra beneficial for you as marketers, because you’ll drive web traffic from print advertising. M&M’s and Disney are two brands that created art around their codes.
Using QR codes in coupons
When you put a QR code on a coupon, it makes it easier for customers and employees to access it both in stores and online. You can scan the QR code and directly move your audience to the newest promotion.
How to use QR codes directly on your products
If you’re marketing a physical product, add a QR code directly on the packaging so customers can find out more. The QR code should both market to customers purchasing the product as well as ones that already have it. Harney Sushi in San Diego adds an edible QR code to its dishes that educate customers of the origins and details of the fish they are eating. This is a great example of how QR codes could have a larger impact as supply chain becomes more important with the development of blockchain.
Products that require more thought when selecting are great use cases for QR codes. The wine industry has been one of the first to jump on this marketing trend. Shopping for wine can be challenging for some consumers as there are so many options and variations, and most people don’t have a lot of knowledge on the variations. Adding a QR code to bottles links customers information on the wine they’re considering, accompanied by videos of wineries and food pairings.
What types of things can a QR code trigger?
QR codes are not just for linking to websites. Here are some other options for what scanning a QR code can trigger:
- Send a text
- Dial a number
- Send an email
- View a social media profile
- Download an app
Personalize QR codes depending on your business
Depending on your business and the type of QR code marketing you’re doing, you can also personalize QR codes. Madison Square Garden in New York created a custom, memorable QR code that goes to their website.
Consider your audience before creating a personal QR code. As we mentioned, QR codes are still in the adoption and recognition phase in the North American and European markets. This personal code could not be recognized by the audience, creating a barrier to scanning.
Track the success of your QR codes
If you’re investing in creating and sharing QR codes, you want to be able to measure your efforts. You should track, where your audience is searching from, top days of the week for engagement, so you can better understand the type of content your audience enjoys. If you create your QR codes in a link management tool such as Rebrandly, you’ll be able to track them just as if they were links. You’ll also be able to create a branded link for every QR code you create. This improves the success of your campaign because branded links are easy to remember and type into a web browser if users are still wary or unsure how to use QR codes. You can track the analytics all in one place, with multiple teammates.
Considerations for the most effective use of QR codes in marketing campaigns
Although QR codes are extremely beneficial in both on and offline marketing, they also do have some restrictions, and some points to consider before jumping on this strategy.
- Avoid QR codes in email- Since 59% of people check their email on a mobile phone, a QR code can be frustrating because there is no way to scan it. Yes, email can be checked on the computer as well, but this barrier creates a hiccup in the customer experience. Instead, use branded links in emails. This works to increase brand recognition and customer trust while ensuring your email’s don’t end up in spam folders like what is possible with generic short URLs.
- Check WiFi and reception in the area- This is very important because the whole point of the QR code is to speed up the customer journey and make it smoother and more seamless. If a user scans a code and it doesn’t work, this means you lost that lead. Consider this when posting a poster for example, in a subway station where service might be poor.
- Know your audience- Who are you targeting? 20-50-year-old Americans with iPhones? Get on that QR code train! Targeting an older generation, or people that prominently use Android phones? Proceed with caution.
- Consider the placement– Don’t put a QR code on a highway billboard and expect people to be able to scan it. Study the location beforehand to ensure it’s actually possible to scan.
QR codes connect all of your marketing efforts and give your audience the opportunity to learn more. They can help enhance your customer’s experience, while giving you, as a marketer, more insights into their behavior, especially in offline marketing activities.
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This Article is About:
- How to use QR codes
- QR codes for marketing
- QR code for business cards
- QR codes and branded links
Originally posted: December 25, 2018
Republished: January 7, 2020