To QR or not to QR? That actually IS the question marketers are asking themselves.
Chatter in the social media space lately about QR codes is all over the map. QR codes have either become the marketing tool people love to hate (described by one as “robot barf”), while others say it’s on the brink of exploding in popularity. While there are convincing points on both sides, it’s not time to rule out the QR code. Here are nine reasons why you shouldn’t discount the QR code:
1. Smartphones are becoming mainstream.
Smartphone usage is growing, which is good news for the QR code. 62% of mobile adults aged 25-34 reportedly own one. About 54% of those 18-24 and 35-44 own one (Nielsen). And half of U.S. adult cell phone owners have apps on their phones.
2. People are still motivated by a deal or coupon.
People are using digital coupons, and QR codes are a simple delivery mechanism for digital deals. As of April 2011, access to a coupon was the No. 1 reason why people scanned a QR code – and mobile coupon usage is expected to double by 2013.
image via Flickr from waynesutton12
3. Scanning is on the rise.
Worldwide, scans of barcodes (QR Code, Datamatrix and UPC/EAN scans), increased 20% from Q2 to Q3 2011. In the U.S., it grew 42%. In June 2011, 14 million people scanned one, while another study found that 1 in 4 U.S. smartphone owners have scanned a QR code. It continues to be an upward trend.
4. Savvy brands are using them. (Or, don’t be discouraged by results from brands who haven’t used them wisely.)
Starbucks, Hennessy, and many others have incorporated QR codes into their marketing programs. But there are others who haven’t used them in such savvy ways. B.L. Ochman cites excellent examples about why QR codes fail in Ad Age, including posting them in places difficult to scan (like billboards and license plates). Don’t be swayed too heavily by these poor uses and know that some of the world’s most savvy marketing teams are incorporating them.
5. An informed customer is more likely to buy, and QR codes are a viable way to deliver that information when they need it.
Home Depot includes QR codes on shelf labels so shoppers can learn more about a product. Starbucks recently released a QR code campaign to teach customers about its coffee. When a study by the Boston Globe revealed that a high number of fish deliveries to area restaurants were the wrong species, one company launched a QR program that shares when and where your fish was caught, as well as who caught it. Having the information needed to make a decision about a product at precisely the moment a shopper needs it is critical, and QR codes are a scalable and trackable option. This extends into the content marketing realm as well: Macy’s Backstage Pass QR code campaign taught in-store shoppers about style and connected them with designers. This is relevant content that can push shoppers toward making a purchase.
6. Using QR codes in marketing – and teaching customers about them – will make them more successful.
Which came first, the QR code user or the QR code marketer? This chicken-or-egg scenario points to the fact that QR codes might require a bit of brand education of consumers. It’s a quick and simple lesson: download app, scan, visit site/redeem deal, etc. The more users see QR codes and learn about them, the more they will get used, and the more effective they will be for brands.
7. Fans can Like your Facebook Page more easily through QR codes.
This handy update can help connect to customers on Facebook: iOS5 users can open Facebook Pages automatically in their Facebook apps, rather than going to m.facebook.com where many must log in again.
8. Malicious scammers will always take advantage of technology.
Last month an Android scanning app infected with malware was released in Russia, which diminished confidence in the QR code. While unfortunate, many (arguably most) digital technologies have been hit by shady characters. Security experts and researchers have stated consumers shouldn’t be overly cautious, just be discerning if a QR code isn’t provided by a trusted brand. Don’t let this recent news determine whether or not you try incorporating QR codes.
9. Many of the negative points against QR codes can be remedied by brands themselves.
By following some common advice about QR codes, marketers can prevent negative user experiences:
- Make it worth their time: According to a Russell Herder survey, 31% of consumers who have scanned a QR code say that what they receive in return is always or usually worth their time. 52% say it’s sometimes worth it, and only 17% say it’s rarely or never worth it. So it’s critical to ensure what customers get for scanning is worth it.
- Create mobile-friendly and to-the-point landing pages for each QR code: Mobile users are on the go. Creating mobile-friendly, to-the-point landing pages for QR codes cut down on angst and help give consumers the info they want in an instant.
So don’t give up on the QR code. There are few other technologies that can easily tie offline marketing to online marketing and allow digital marketers to connect with customers when they aren’t online.
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