Marketing With QR Codes
The rise (and importance) of “Quick Response” codes
When was the last time you shopped at an outlet that didn’t accept electronic money as payment? From 5 star restaurants to your local fruit vendor, every retailer seems to have heard the message loud and clear — get yourself a virtual payment option or risk losing out. According to LiveMint, the previous financial year saw a total of “7,422 crore digital payment transactions” in India alone. That’s… a whole lot, to say the least.
Of course, these transactions are all powered by the elegant and powerful QR code. These “Quick Response” codes save us time and effort by rapidly allowing our scanners to access a whole bunch of information at a glance.
However, the explosion of QR codes that’s in full swing right now didn’t happen overnight.
After their invention in Japan in 1994, they slowly but steadily crept across the globe, as website log in shortcuts, physical menu card alternatives, WiFi sign up shortcuts and, most recently, as a touchless alternative during the pandemic.
In fact, Forbes insists that the pandemic is actually what saved the QR code from extinction, but the point is that they aren’t just surviving in today’s economy — they’re thriving. We’re getting dependent on walking out with no physical cash on us, just our phones and our mobile payment services at the ready.
Any savvy marketer knows that the key to staying ahead is understanding the trends of the moment, so without further ado, let’s jump in and see what we find!
How the QR code has evolved over time
Beaconstac credits Macy’s and Best Buy campaigns in America in the early 2010s with first popularising the QR code as a consumer tool.
You can imagine, though, that this had its own set of issues — introducing a technology that a majority of the population had never accessed before was confusing, many shoppers simply didn’t have smartphones, and scanning QR codes at that point required downloading complicated apps that made the process cumbersome and unappealing.
To put it shortly, things are at least a hundred times easier here in 2022! The point of this is to say — make use of the fact that the foundation is well established by now.
Scanning a code is something most shoppers are used to by now, and the technology is as easy to use as it’s ever been. What’s more, there are tried and tested marketing campaign ideas that you can depend on to show you the way.
Let’s explore a few to get a better idea of what could work for YOUR company! As always, if you feel like you need a little more guidance about the techniques that would suit your business best, don’t hesitate to shoot us a comment or write to our founder at email@example.com for advice!
Though you might have seen several examples of this since, Lacoste was one of the first brands to print QR codes onto its advertisements that would instantly display their newest collection’s latest looks. All the way back in 2012, Lacoste took out ads in fashion magazines with QR codes that would lead straight to their website.
“We realize that mobile has quickly become the №1 vehicle to reach consumers, and we are continuing to stay ahead of the trend by embracing new methods of mobile integration. Mobile has increasingly become a holistic part of the purchase cycle, most often driving our customers to offline retail locations across the country,” said Steve Birkhold, president and CEO of Lacoste USA, New York. (Excerpt from Retail Dive)
In 2019, Lacoste built on this by flashing QR codes on TV screens during French Open tennis matches. Scanning the blocks would lead you to classic sportswear from the brand’s catalogue, thus taking advantage of the current mood of any sports fanatic.
On the flip side, this blog post does a fantastic job of pointing out some of the flaws of the earlier Lacoste campaigns. They are beginner’s mistakes, definitely out of the question in 2022, and it cements our earlier point about making use of our current smarts to really get the best results possible.
Directing users to your latest or most relevant collection allows you to use little space for a big message. Instead of having to display every design in an ad you take out, you just need enough to print out a QR code that the user can then use to access the same information ultimately.
This tactic works best if you’re selling wares or have something new to alert consumers about.
“Spotify Codes” have made quite the name for themselves, mainly just by being a really great idea. Scan one of them to automatically start playing the song encoded within it, thus making these codes beautiful additions to gifts, momentos, birthday cards, and so much more.
If you’ve been on Instagram in the last year or so, chances are you’ve seen these codes turned into keychains that you can gift a loved one or posters that start playing theme songs instantly. It’s made it so much easier to share music, either with a friend or a whole new consumer base.
As TechCrunch points out, “you can imagine artists printing vinyl stickers with their Spotify Codes instead of just their band name. Whereas a complicated Spotify URL would be unsightly and complicated to type in on mobile, the camera and soundwave-stylized codes look good and are easy to use.”
QR codes can simplify the process of sharing information. This makes any potential client more likely to check out whatever it is you’re selling. As you probably already know through personal experience, the more steps involved, the more people will avoid going through with it.
A sweet idea could be branding your business cards with all the required information (your website, number, email ID) through QR codes instead of typing it all out. Who knows, the number of landing page visits might skyrocket with just this one change!
The fast food franchise teamed up with ESPN back in the mid 2010s to add exclusive content about the Bowl Championship Series football games to their food packaging. Scanning the QR codes would lead you to premium game analyses and other videos related to the ongoing championship games.
And… It worked!
Over 225k scans were taken during that series, with the campaign being marked as a huge success. “…The volume of responses in the timeframe really underlines the strength of QR codes as a mobile response mechanism,” Ritesh Bhavnani, then-chairman of Snipp Interactive was quick to point out.
Think about it this way — in 2021 alone, almost 1.5 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. According to Statista, over 78% of the global population owns a smartphone as of 2020, in sharp contrast to the 27% of mobile users in 2010. If a campaign like Taco Bell’s proved to be so successful back when we had less than half the number of smartphone users as we do now, there’s just so much potential that such a move would have today!
It doesn’t just matter whether or not you use QR codes. The contexts in which you place them are equally important. This requires a fair bit of user data collection. In the case of the Taco Bell, ESPN collaboration, you could ask how many fast food consumers are football fanatics? And how many of them own smartphones? Would it make more sense to place the ads on the vegetarian tacos or the more exotic varieties? All these decisions play a role in deciding how many hits you’ll ultimately land.
Different strategies to employ QR codes
We’ve already detailed some of the major QR code campaigns of the last decade or so, but to keep it all in one place, here are a few basic, tried-and-tested ways you can use the boxes to nudge your user base:
- Direct users to landing pages, social media profiles — this works best if you’re selling wares or if you have appointment-based clientele.
- Pick up a location on Google Maps — if you’re opening a physical shop or have a clinic you want to advertise, this would obviously work best
- Send an email — customer feedback will be so much easier to collect if you make the process seamless for your patrons
- Download an app — this one is self-explanatory, but keep in mind that the placement of such ads is paramount (look at the “Taco Bell” section above)