In the first of a regular series of articles on implementing new media strategies, John Foley Jr, CEO of Interlink1 and GrowSocially, looks at how to make sure QR codes are actually used by the target audience
Did you think that Quick Response (QR) codes were everywhere in 2011? If so, you should expect to see more of the same in 2012. They will continue to add a lot of value to printed products, including labels, packages, mailers, and more.
Yes, there are going to be other mobile technologies – such as NFC, perhaps? – that will push a bit further into the mainstream in the near future, but with QR codes, the momentum has reached a tipping point. Now is the time for companies to use them to make their printed materials interactive.
Of course, QR codes should not be incorporated only because they are popular. They should help a company to achieve business goals – and that starts with getting people to scan them. It goes without saying that QR codes need to be printed correctly so that they work effectively. If the code fails, the user becomes immediately disinterested.
Here are four tips for increasing QR code scans which will be useful to you, as well as to any clients who seek your input:
1. Provide instructions near the QR Code
Awareness of QR codes has increased dramatically over the past few months but there are still plenty of people that don't know what they are or how to use them. To assist them, provide instructions near the QR code on your printed materials.
This could be done by including text (i.e. ‘Scan the QR code with your smart phone’) or by incorporating an image that displays a smart phone pointing to the QR code, or an image showing how the QR code could point to a smart phone that is displaying a website.
2. Give people an incentive
As marketers first become familiar with QR codes, they often rush too quickly to incorporate them. Thus, they'll skip over fundamentals such as ‘Why would my audience want to scan this?’. Rather than just slapping a QR code on your printed materials, develop a reason why you should have one. Will it make it easier for your audience to access a map or directions? Will it make easier for people to contact your company or to make a purchase?
Include that reason somewhere on your printed materials to let people know what benefits they'll receive by scanning the code.
3. Educate your audience ahead of time
QR codes exist primarily to make print interactive but you can use other media to increase awareness about them. Create blog posts on your website that talk about them. Produce a video that demonstrates how someone could successfully use their smart phone to scan them. Put one on your social media pages or in your email signature. Talk about them in your eNewsletter.
By taking those steps, you not only create curiosity, but increase the chances that your audience will know what to do with them when they see your QR code printed.
4. Shorten the destination URL
This one is very important. QR codes can hold a lot of data but the more data that you have in a QR code, the harder it may be for someone to scan it quickly. Be sure to use a service that shortens your URLs before generating the QR code.
Carol Houghton shares an example of how to make QR codes work:
There is increasing evidence that the wrong use of QR codes – for example, links to poorly executed websites – is putting consumers off using them altogether. But one good example of how to make QR codes work comes from mobile network operator Verizon, which increased sales by 200 percent by encouraging in-store customers to scan a QR code that shared a competition on social networking sites. If a friend used the link to buy a Verizon mobile, the original customer won a smart phone. The company gained a 35,000 dollars return on a 1,000 dollar investment and greatly increased brand awareness.
At the moment QR codes are still a novelty. But as we become accustomed to seeing them on increasing numbers of products, brands need to do more to ensure they have an impact.
About the author
John Foley Jr, is CEO of Interlink1 and GrowSocially. Both companies help clients integrate social media and new print technologies – like QR codes – into initiatives which leverage new communication channels. Connect with John Foley Jr. and his team on Twitter @InterlinkONE @GrowSocially @johnfoleyjr @jasonpinto @QreateandTrack or Facebook
This article was published in L&L issue 1, 2012