October 17, 2011

What's Black, White and Read All Over? QR Code Marketing 101

by Anna Pfeiffer, Marketing Strategist at Bronto

QR CodeYou’ve probably noticed QR codes around, even if you didn’t know what they were.  You know – those weird pixel-y looking black and white things that look like the new computerized stamps?  Those are Quick Response codes or QR codes for short.  Let's discuss how marketers can effectively use them to drive traffic and conversions.

What can QR codes do?

A lot! And some of these uses may surprise you. Here is a list of the current actions that QR codes can prompt your smartphone to complete:

  • Load a URL in the browser
  • Send an email message
  • Send a text message
  • Call a telephone number
  • Download a vCard / contact info
  • Send a tweet
  • Download a calendar event
  • Open a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI)
  • Log you in to a WiFi network (Android only)

How can these uses play out in the real-life marketing world?  Take loading a URL, for instance.  Sounds simple enough and pretty flat, right?  Not too much exciting there.  But think about what can be conveyed in a simple link these days – how much metadata can travel straight from your smartphone to the web and prompt certain actions.  For instance, a URL could load a reservation in OpenTable, be equivalent to clicking the PayPal buy now button, load a YouTube video, download a digital asset or load your app or other content from the iTunes Store.  The possibilities are certainly intriguing, to say the least!

How about opening a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI)… a WHAT?  In layman’s terms that means taking metadata and employing it to launch an app that you already have installed on your smartphone.  Using a QR code to launch the Google Maps app and load your physical location or directions to your store – this is an example of URI use. Pretty cool, right?

Has this already gotten the gears turning?  I’m sure the good ideas are flowing but do stop for a brief moment and make sure to ask yourself an important question: Are QR codes a good fit for your business or industry?  In some instances, they just don’t make sense. People often ask me if they should consider using a QR code in their email.  I then ask what it is they want the QR code to do.  Inevitably they reply with “take the subscriber to a link.”  So if I’m on my desktop reading an email I have to then pull out another device to read the QR code and open the page on a platform that I wasn’t even using?  Or, even worse, if I’m looking at the email on my smartphone, reading the QR code at all becomes an even bigger challenge, if not impossible!  Obviously there are exceptions, but a helpful word to the wise: think about logistics when planning for QR code use.

So when does it make sense to utilize QR codes?  There are plenty of lists out there that will get your brain storming.  I won’t re-post them all but will instead just highlight some of the most common, most creative and most compelling:

Where to add QR Codes:

  1. Storefront displays / windows
  2. Instruction manuals / directions on product
  3. T-shirts / uniforms
  4. Labels
  5. Business cards & nametags
  6. Stickers on laptops, cars, etc.
  7. Billboard/print - direct mail, invoices, recipts, etc.
  8. TV ads
  9. Trucks/buildings

What action can QR Codes drive?

  1. Email sign-up / send text to sign-up
  2. Add products to cart
  3. Scavenger hunts
  4. Traffic to your website from print pieces
  5. Trigger a call to customer service
  6. Mobile app download
  7. Supplement retail space on signage, etc.
  8. Traffic to your social media sites

Imagine a woman walking by your storefront after dinner and seeing the perfect pair of shoes to complement a dress she has.  But it’s late and the store is already closed… which is too bad because this is a must-have impulse that may fade after the sticker price has longer to sink in.  However, you won’t lose this customer because you’ve placed a sign on the window: “Scan the QR code to find these shoes online!”  The code opens the product page for the shoes on your mobile-optimized site, the woman makes the purchase and you’ve just landed a sale – awesome!  You could even apply a special discount for customers utilizing your QR codes or even have the code automatically add an item to the cart.

You could also link to instructional product videos when featuring a QR code in printed directions or on receipts.  Use it take visitors to an email sign-up page.  Put one in an email to catalog buyers to prompt those that may fear online purchasing to trigger a call to your customer service department.  Place them in your retail store to drive traffic online.  The possibilities are practically endless.  So look into what uses for QR codes could benefit your business, brainstorm with colleagues and get creative – they could just become one of your new favorite marketing tools!  There are countless uses for QR codes, I hope this helps you gear up for all the great possibiities in store.  Are you using QR codes with great results already?  If so, share your findings below!

Anna Pfeiffer
Marketing Strategist at Bronto

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Anna Pfeiffer, Marketing Strategist at Bronto

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Comments

QR codes are not that new and I was wondering whether there is any research available that highlights the uptake, usage and success of QR codes on specific campaigns.

At last an intelligent post on QR Codes, thanks Anna. There are too many bad examples of QR Code usage that are putting businesses off using them. The connecting should add value for the user and be enaging and rewarding. Businesses should invest in subscribing to a QR Code tracking and tracing platform that will monitor the QR Code usage and provided detailed analytics.

Submitted by Anna Pfeiffer on

Thanks and I agree completely. In researching this post, I found too many example uses that either just weren't practical or wouldn't really move the needle - I hope these examples put some perspective on how to use QR codes intelligently. And yes, tracking is essential! Some QR code generators automatically track scans / resulting clicks but you can also add your own analytics code to your landing pages if they are used exclusively for QR codes.

I found too many example uses that either just weren't practical or wouldn't really move the needle - I hope these examples put some perspective on how to use QR codes intelligently. And yes, tracking is essential! Some QR code generators automatically track scans / resulting clicks but you can also add your own analytics code to your landing pages if they are used

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