Quick response (QR) codes – those abstract black and white squares that redirect users to an online location when scanned with a smart phone – seem to be on every ad, package and magazine page lately.
Besides costing nothing to create, QR codes allow for easy measurement and can add buzz-worthy value when used strategically. Without a sound strategy, however, they can become useless and downright annoying to your audiences. Here are five ways a QR code can bomb:
1) It leads to a website homepage
Why bother generating a QR code if it just leads to a homepage? Put the URL on your collateral materials instead to avoid irritating your audiences, who expect added value from a QR code. Which leads to reason #2…
2) It doesn’t offer content of any value
QR codes provide a quick, easy and relatively hands-free way for smart phone users to reach a digital destination – but it can’t be just any destination. It must offer a perceived value to your audience or solve a marketing or business challenge.
One of the most clever uses I’ve seen was by Tesco/Homeplus. When moving into the South Korean market, the grocery store chain wallpapered subway walls with exact replications of its stores’ shelves. Each item featured a QR code that, when scanned, dropped the item into a virtual cart. The groceries were then delivered to users’ homes. Online sales increased 130 percent, and the store is now close to reaching #1 status in the market.
Think about how your QR code can add similar value. Is it a contest? Coupon? Virtual tour? Free e-book? Get creative!
3) Your audience doesn’t use QR codes
Forrester research shows that 15 percent of smart phone users use a scanning app, but that percentage only represents about 5 percent of the U.S. adult population. Within that small percentage, a comScore MobiLens™ study of June 2011 data found that QR code scanners tend to be male, between 25 and 44 and have a household income of $100,000 or more.
The takeaway: The QR code-scanning population is small, but growing quickly. As with any marketing tactic, consider your audience before jumping in.
4) It’s not being used in the right medium
The same study mentioned above found that people are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers or magazines and on product packaging, which makes sense. Print offers limited information, and – on a functional level – it’s easy to scan a QR code from print. A few places where QR codes don’t make sense:
- Anywhere an Internet connection is weak or impossible
- Television – I once saw a commercial where a QR code was camouflaged into a decadent dessert, appearing on the screen for only a second. If I knew it was coming and if I lined up my phone’s QR code scanner perfectly on the first try, I maybe could have scanned it.
- In e-communications or on a website – If someone is already online, make it easy for them. Just provide a link.
5) It’s not working
Your QR code campaign may not yield results because the code itself is simply not working. Test your code with multiple scanners and devices (i.e. iPhone, Android, Blackberry) before publication, and make sure the website it leads to is mobile-optimized or, at the very least, mobile-friendly.
As with any other marketing tactic, a successful QR code campaign comes down to a solid strategy. Have you had success with a QR code? Tell us how you’re using them.