QR (quick response) code usage is increasing rapidly. Nearly two-thirds of mobile phone users now have access to the Internet. This is up from less than 20 percent at the beginning of 2011. Of the mobile users with Internet access, about a third have already scanned a QR code. Nearly half of the scans came from magazines or newspapers and about a quarter of the scans came from flyers, posters, kiosks or packages. Surprisingly, about a quarter of the QR code scans came from a website on a PC. QR codes are now being used in television commercials, buildings and even in geo plantings near airports to be read from the air.
The combination of mobile web access and social media has created a huge opportunity to use QR codes as “jump points” to engage prospects from virtually any printed material. Using QR codes turns passive print that is by definition one-way communication into active, engaging communication that lets the viewer interact and engage by viewing videos, taking polls or quizzes and opting in for future communications. Viewers can also ask for and get instant offers, including getting instant coupons to appear on their phones which can be scanned at a store’s register, and then share information or offers on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.
There is a rush on for marketers to move to mobile, much like the rush in the early ’90s to simply get on the Web. As consumers shift how they get their information and mobile phones become their primary communication device, old methods like emails are giving way to text messages, instant chat and posts on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Many college students today hardly ever check their email, but they sleep with their phones.
If you are tempted to join the rush, you should make sure your consumers and prospects have a good mobile experience. Seeing the same information found on a package or printed in an article is not a good experience-it’s simply a waste of the customer’s time. Offering additional information that can’t be found in the printed space, like in-depth interviews or how-to videos can represent real value. Further offers to receive additional information can help you develop a relationship with your prospects and customers so you can communicate with them in the future to give them more valuable information and inform them about special offers or new products you may have. Here are five tips to help ensure your customers have a good experience when you use QR codes.
1. Give your customers a good mobile experience. Make sure that when your customers click on your QR or 2D tag, they are directed to a site that is easy to navigate and renders properly on their small screen. Don’t think that just slapping a QR code or tag on an existing package or promotional piece will be giving your customers value. One of the fastest ways to turn your customers off to QR codes is to give them a bad QR code experience. This can happen by directing them to a traditional non-mobile website. If the site is not thumb- friendly, your customers will have a hard time navigating it on a small phone screen, and will likely leave and never come back.
2. Make sure that you are offering something of value for your customers. Don’t just send them to a site that repeats the information found on your package or promotional material. Your customer’s time is valuable and you should be offering something that he or she can’t find on the package or ad, like educational or humorous video worth sharing. Video is the number one use of mobile promotional sites, for good reason. Well done videos let you educate and entertain without making the viewer work. Short videos of 45 to 90 seconds work well on mobile devices and let you give much more detail and explanation than you can in a post-card ad or other short, traditional marketing communication.
3. Make sure that the QR code you offer can be scanned. Present the QR code you print using the least dense code possible. This can be done through the use of software and generators that create and optimize the best URL for the code you wish to deliver. Proper sizing of the code for the element you are printing on or the location you are delivering the code is also important. The code should be physically large enough to be read, but not so large that it takes up too much valuable real estate on your marketing communication. The optimal size usually depends on how far away the scanner is from the code to be scanned. For example, will the code be scanned from a magazine ad, a poster, or a stadium screen?
4. Tell the viewer what is in it for them when they scan the code. You should always add a description of what the viewer will see when they scan the code. This gives them a reason to scan the code. Don’t just place it on your communication and assume that the viewer will know what it is there for. A short description next to the code usually is enough, but you have to be very careful about what you say. Think of the description as a headline to an article. If the headline is not interesting, no one will read the article.
5. Always use the codes as a way to further engagement. Once a consumer or prospect has scanned your code and gone to a well-designed mobile site that offers value, you have a great opportunity to get him or her to sign up for additional information or to share the information with friends. By adding opt-in pages, you can get them to sign up for new offers and content as it becomes available. The addition of share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media can rapidly help build viral word-of-mouth activity. The use of polls and quizzes also builds engagement and can give your viewers a reason to share.
About the author: Scott Francis is the president of Topline Development marketing consulting and co-founder of Snap Lab Media™, the marketer of SnapTRAC™ software as a service for advertising agencies and larger enterprises that rapidly builds mobile websites, generates QR codes and provides analytics without the need for programmers. Visit SnapLabmedia.com or email Scott at Scott@SnapLabMedia.com.
This article first appeared in the February 2012 issue of Northwoods Commerce magazine.