Quick Response codes are a pet peeve of mine. While they offer exciting opportunities for marketers to gain valuable consumer insights, too often they are a very visible example of thoughtless marketing practices. Before you slap another QR code on your marketing materials, ask yourself these questions:
Who is my target audience and what’s their comfort level with QR codes?
Smartphone ownership and QR code usage vary among demographic groups. In March, Nielsen reported that half of mobile phone users now have smartphones. Of course, the flip side is that 50 percent still do not have smartphones or the technology to scan a QR code. You might be surprised to learn that in the United States Caucasians have the lowest rate of smartphone adoption, while Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate at more than 65 percent.
Last summer, ComScore surveyed people who scan QR codes and found that users are more likely to be male, young to middle-age, and upper income. Does this sound like your target audience? If not, you probably need to continue educating your consumers about what a QR code is, how to use it, and more importantly, give them a reason to do so. Also, continue to include important information such as your website address, location, or phone number for those who don’t own a smartphone.
What’s the goal?
What’s motivating you to put a QR code on your marketing materials? Is it because everyone else is doing it? If you don’t have a goal in mind at the start, it’s hard to define the success of your QR code. To analyze the success of your QR code program, you need to have a plan that defines what constitutes a conversion, how to make a conversion happen, and a method for measuring conversions.
How does a QR code add value for my customer?
Many companies seem to have a “build it, and they will come“ mentality about QR codes. Bringing visitors to your site in order to provide more information is a logical use of QR codes, but keep in mind that you are asking your potential customer to put forth a certain amount of effort. I encourage you to put yourself in the customers’ shoes for a moment and consider whether or not you have provided any real incentive for your prospect to scan your code.
Survey respondents do cite novelty as a reason for testing QR codes, but clearly, novelty isn’t a sustainable marketing strategy. Inspire mobile users to scan the code by providing them with a benefit for doing so. It could be a discount, a chance to win, or a freebie such as a free appetizer with your meal. How would your marketing strategy change if you looked at every QR code as an opportunity to surprise and delight your customer?
Is this an appropriate place for a QR code?
Location and size can make a QR code unusable. In the last few years, QR codes have shown up in some highly illogical places. Let’s quickly run through the steps of scanning a QR code to have a basis for analyzing potential placements. Assuming you have already installed a code reader on your phone, you have to 1. Get your phone out of your purse, pocket, cup holder or wherever you last left it., 2. Pull up the reader app, and 3. Scan the code. I just timed myself through this sequence and it took about 20 seconds.
Available time and safety means a QR code is not a good use of your billboard advertising space. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that when traveling at 55mph, you cover the length of a football field in five seconds. If it takes me 20 seconds to scan a code, it’s unlikely that either a driver or passenger will have enough time to scan a code while whizzing down the freeway. The inherent danger of scanning a code while driving should be obvious.
QR codes in in-flight magazines also waste your space and advertising dollars. Your prospect won’t be able to connect to the Internet with his or her phone in airplane mode. Do you really want to waste advertising space for which you paid a premium?
QR codes also don’t belong in email signatures or websites. Why would you go through the hassle of scanning a QR code when clicking on a link would be so much easier. Finally, if you are going to squish a QR code into product packaging or place one in an unusual location, make sure the code is scanable at that size and place.
Why does it have to be so ugly?
The good news is that QR codes don’t have to be ugly. A graphic designer can alter the look of a standard QR code while maintaining its integrity. You can alter the color, soften the corners, and even add your logo as long as you are using the right type of code. To the right is an example I created for this blog, and here is a Mashable post with some more ideas and instructions.
QR codes are great technology for marketers because they provide a highly trackable way to interact with potential customers. Considering how much we have to gain from them, it’s our responsibility to use this technology in a way that makes consumers happy they made the effort to scan our QR codes. If you do nothing else, please make sure your QR code takes the user to a site that is optimized for mobile. If we provide users with a rewarding experience, we will turn them into evangelists for the technology, and that’s good for all of us.