QR CODES: HERE TO STAY?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Kristen Payne
It’s 2012 and over half of Americans own a smartphone. Smartphones are being used not only as a way to connect to others, but also as handheld computers linking consumers to a plethora of new apps, websites and information – anytime, anywhere. We live in an era where our mobile devices never leave our side and we are able to do virtually anything from the palm of our hand. Enter the latest and greatest marketing strategy that is convenient to consumers and only requires the use of the device that they never leave home without: QR codes.
QR codes, which stand for “Quick Response Codes,” provide a marketing solution that is quick and effortless for consumers, and allow business owners the ability to put product information at consumers’ fingertips. Have you ever noticed these small, black-and-white squares that resemble a bar code, often found on ads in magazines or on table tents at restaurants? Businesses are using them in a plethora of ways, including as a sign-up for a giveaway, an easy way to “like” their page on Facebook or to extend you a special offer. Whatever the case may be, all you need is a simple app on your smartphone to read the code, and the registration page, social media site or discount coupon will be in your hands in a matter of 60 seconds.
If you haven’t paid much attention to them in the past, now is the time to change your tune. QR codes originated in Japan over a decade ago, and while it may take just one minute to read on your phone, each holds thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. Statistics show that one in every five American smartphone users scanned a QR code in a retail store in 2011. Based on statistics from Mobile Commerce Press, the world’s leading news provider on mobile commerce trends, scans of QR codes rose by 39 percent from Q1 to Q2 of 2012, suggesting that the popularity of QR codes is not fading anytime soon. With ease-of-use being the top advantage to both business owners and consumers alike, QR codes are continuously proving that their future is limitless – and they are here to stay.
Generating QR codes is not only simple, but free – and who doesn’t love a free marketing tactic? As a business owner, all you need is a QR code generator site such as Kaywa, where you simply enter the website you’d like to link and it generates a unique QR code at no charge. As a consumer, reading QR codes requires you to have a QR code reader downloaded on your smartphone, which can be found in the app store where all your favorite apps are found. Once you have a QR code reader downloaded, you simply hover your smartphone over the QR code and it will automatically link you back to whatever site the code connects to.
As a business owner, the purpose of your QR codes should always be to benefit your consumers. Within the Food and Beverage Industry, an up-and-coming QR code trend is linking customers to nutritional information. Rather than bulking up your menus with heavy text, simply insert a QR code which allows those customers that are conscious of caloric intake to simply scan the code and be directed to all the nutritional information within seconds. Another idea is linking customers to a featured recipe or if you are in the booming froyo business, provide suggestions of delicious combinations that consumers can create using your yogurt and toppings. In your advertisements, link a QR code to directions to your business increasing the chances of potential customers walking through your door since the directions sit in the palm of their hand. The possibilities are easy, effortless and no charge to you or your consumers.
Several ideas on where to place your QR codes include: business cards, brochures and other marketing collateral, packaging, event nametags, menus and advertisements. An important thing to remember when positioning QR codes into your business plan is to ensure you provide a line of text in order to let consumers know what benefits they will receive from scanning your code. Because the QR code in itself is eye-catching and draws people in, no catchy phrase is needed – just one basic line letting them know where your code will take them. Experimenting with the size, location and color of QR codes makes it fun for business owners and consumers alike. If you think the black and white codes are dull, then use pink and white and make your business stand out. QR codes have also been known to enhance search engine optimization, as well as social media optimization.
Something to keep in mind is using practical placement of QR codes, as well as keeping it relative to your business. The marketing world has been known to mock certain businesses due to their placement of QR codes on billboards or moving vehicles, causing a danger to consumers trying to scan as they are driving. Additionally, be sure you are connecting your consumers to a specific promotion or recipe on your site. Linking them back to your homepage is ineffective as it brings no value to the consumer, it only increases your website’s pageviews. Be sure to test your QR code from multiple mobile devices before promoting it to the public. If your QR code takes consumers to a dead URL, it will create a lasting impression that shines a negative light on your business.
When it comes to tracking the success of QR codes, you will find limitations when it comes to free services, but if you are willing to pay, you can broaden your capabilities. Many of the paid QR code generators provide an analytics tool, but for free analytics, use a link shortening service such as bit.ly or goo.gl when generating your QR code. Most of these URL shorteners provide adequate analytics, although they are limited, so if you find yourself wanting to know more, you can broaden your statistics at an affordable price. If you already use Google Analytics, it can also be used for tracking the statistics of QR codes. Using one of the aforementioned services for tracking is important, so you can discover if QR codes are successful for your business.
Applying this new technology is simple. Brainstorm the best business plan, placement and promotion relative to your business and get ready to see results. Go out and generate your first QR code and watch your business, as well as your customers’ content factor, grow right before your eyes.
Qfuse Blog, “The 5 Statistics Everyone Should Know about QR Codes”
· Mobile Commerce Press, “QR code use continues to rise in Q2 2012”