This post appeared in The Wichita Eagle business section on July 21, 2011.
When you’re shopping for TVs at Best Buy, the number of choices can be overwhelming. And it doesn’t help that every TV looks pretty much the same. So it’s really helpful that the store places a QR code on every set. You can scan the handful that really interests you. Later, when you’re home, you can peruse the details.
QR (quick response) codes seem to be popping up everywhere these days, from subway ads to billboards. One study, from JumpScan, found that QR scans increased 1,200 percent from July to December 2010.
With a QR code, you can add video information to a print ad. You can help a customer find the nearest store. If you’re running a convention, you can create a database of contacts for vendors by putting a QR code on each ID badge, scannable when each person visits your booth.
Actually scanning a code, however, takes some work. You have to get out your smartphone (if you have one), launch appropriate software (have you downloaded it?), take a picture of the code (hold it steady, please) and then view the resulting web page (you have online access, don’t you?)
At the end of this tortuous path lies the custom, targeted information that you’re seeking. So please – make it worthwhile for your customer. Here are some general principles for using QR codes for your business:
Does it make sense?
If you’re just sending people to your home page, it’s probably easier to type the URL than to scan a code. And if your website isn’t mobile friendly, don’t even think about QR codes. You’re setting your customers up for failure. They don’t want to look at your website on that tiny screen.
Choose a platform
While there are many places online that will generate QR codes for you, you should choose an end-to-end platform, which can provide rich analytics to measure the success of your campaign. Some platforms also let you reassign codes, which can be useful if you’re printing codes onto expensive signs. If you’re a Realtor, for example, when you sell a house you can reassign the code and move the sign to another house.
Test your codes
Make sure they still scan when printed. How about in low light? If you’re putting QR codes on a house for sale, will they scan from the street? In a study that I conducted, more than 15 percent of the codes wouldn’t scan. And make sure the code goes to the correct web page.
Tell people what to do
Most people have never scanned a code. For them, you need to provide instructions, such as “Scan this code with your mobile phone to receive enhanced content …” You might also provide an URL where the consumer can download the appropriate software. And, by all means, please include an actual URL (if it’s long, please shorten it with a tool like bit.ly or tinyurl.com). A QR code should never stand alone.
Measure your success
Your analytics should be able to tell you how many people scanned your code. More importantly, what did they do? Focus on conversions more than impressions. Do prospects call? Do they click through and buy something? See which codes perform the best and try to understand why they were successful.
Keep it simple
There are many ways to direct customers to your website. Instead of QR codes, you may be better off creating short URLs for key pages, or even a special address on a different domain for a specific product or campaign. If you’re worried about your customers not all having smartphones and software, build your campaign on SMS text. Virtually every cell phone can send a text, and texting is practically the native language of teenagers and millennials. When people text you, return a targeted message than includes a URL.
The Internet has become the de facto place where information is exchanged. QR codes and other mobile technologies can help link offline assets to the connected web, bringing new customers to your digital front door.
Edelman Digital: Emerging trends in mobile tagging (includes detailed slide deck)
Case study article from Search Engine Watch (includes list of QR platforms)