QR codes - those ubiquitous black and white squares appearing on everything from product packaging to billboards - have been rapidly gaining in popularity as marketers realise their power. From 2011 to 2012 alone, statistics showed a 400 per cent increase in usage1 - an upward trend likely to continue into the future.
What are QR codes?
QR (quick response) codes are barcodes that can contain an almost limitless variety of information that smartphone users can instantly download. Providing immediate access to websites, apps, coupons, information, entertainment and much more, these codes have come a long way since they were first used in the automotive industry back in the 1990s to keep track of parts.2
With the ability to attract customers at every stage of the buying process - from information gathering to the final sale - many experts believe that QR codes should have a place in every mobile marketing strategy.
Why do people scan QR codes?
According to information in a Consumer Pulse report3, 50 per cent of mobile phone users have scanned one of these codes, with the top reasons being:
In addition to driving specific consumer behaviours, QR codes can also be used to gather vital information about mobile device users such as what phone they're using, what they're viewing on your website, if they've download an app, how long they're on your site and more. QR codes are also great for enticing users to provide personal information in exchange for incentives, such as coupons or free gifts.
Tips for creating an effective QR code campaign
To make your QR code campaign more effective, you should define the specific goals you wish to achieve from the outset. Unfortunately, it's not enough to plaster QR codes everywhere, send users to your website and hope for the best - you need to offer them something valuable for their time.
For example, if you're a restaurant and want to put a QR code on your menu, use it as an opportunity to give customers something worthwhile, such an instant coupon, a free recipe or a chance to review your restaurant. Doing this will create engagement with your customers and can even increase brand loyalty.
Here are some more tips for creating a unique and effective QR campaign:
Incentivise people with coupons, free gifts and contests, which can drive participation tenfold.4
Place QR codes in a convenient location where people will have time to scan.
Create a special landing page for your QR code that will engage users and drive specific behaviours, such as filling out a form.
Make sure that the experience you give your customers after the scan is high quality and optimised for mobile. Bad experiences will turn consumers off.
Create a compelling call to action.
Other uses for QR codes
QR codes are extremely versatile and can be used in a number of creative and out-of-the-box ways, including:
Business cards: To provide your contact information.
Price tags: To provide instant product information.
Instant event registration: Put them on all your flyers and promotional materials.
Surveys: These can be done while people eat, wait in line or travel on public transport.
T-shirts: Put them on t-shirts at conference and other events. They make for great conversation starters.
So is there a case for QR codes? Definitely. However, to make the most of your campaign you need to clearly define what your goals are and how you aim to achieve them. Having measurable goals will help you determine if your marketing efforts are effective and how to fine-tune your efforts in the future.
It's also extremely important to provide customers with a valuable and positive experience when they scan, and to be creative in your use of QR codes in order to stand out from the crowd.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.