Have you ever noticed that little, square graphic with black and white pixilated modules that keeps showing up everywhere? Sure, you’ve probably seen it on product labeling, concert tickets, television shows, in-store signage and much more. You may already know that the bizarre little graphic is a QR code, but have you ever actually scanned one?
QR codes are scannable graphics that essentially act as object hyperlinks, connecting something in the physical world to something in the digital world. While QR codes are certainly getting some buzz, only about 6.2% of the total mobile audience in the U.S. has scanned one on their mobile device. However, customized QR codes are gaining momentum quickly.
QR codes emerged in the wave of mobile alongside other tools like SMS and mobile coupons, as a way for brands to create a customized consumer experience and drive mobile engagement.
Brands add QR codes to billboards, movie trailers, product packaging, and the backs of stadium seats among other places, and the codes can link back to the brand’s mobile site where consumers can access a mobile coupon, a giveaway or sweepstakes, or a video—anything that is informative and engaging.
Some marketers dismiss QR codes as an effective tool due to a couple pitfalls. QR code use is limited to smartphone owners, as regular mobile phones do not have the ability to download apps and scan barcodes. Another challenge is that consumers must first download a barcode scanner app before they can scan the QR code. To make the process even more convoluted, users have to know which app is the right one for each code amid the sea of scanner applications available.
What does this mean for brands using QR codes to drive mobile engagement?
Each QR code must have a relevant call-to-action that is of value to the consumer. Consumers scan the codes to receive something from the brand that is exclusive and dynamic. If the scanned code simply links back to the company website, the consumer probably won’t be engaged. However, if the scanned code links to an entry form for an iPad giveaway, the consumer will probably be more likely to scan similar codes in the future.
QR codes can work as a loyalty system too. Brands should reward consumers for scanning, or else there will be no motivation for them to scan again. Linking the code to a mobile coupon, for example, will be worthwhile for the customer and will entice more people to scan in the future.
Lastly, brands need to elucidate the process. QR codes are still in their infancy, so brands can’t just plop the code somewhere and assume that everyone knows how to use it. Whether the code is on a bus top billboard or the back of a soda can, the call-to-action must not only explain why people should scan the code, but also how to scan it.
Many consumers are still getting used to QR codes, but adoption is increasing. The codes allow us to connect the physical world to the digital world while engaging, educating, and rewarding consumers—something brands should definitely dabble in.