Should You Have QR Codes?
According to CNBC, somewhere between 75% and 85% of consumers in developed markets own a smartphone, and that number only continues to rise. For this reason, it’s absolutely crucial that your business harness mobile technology to remain competitive in the coming years, even for businesses that have traditionally had little emphasis on web marketing.
One way to do this is with QR codes.
While QR codes have gotten a bit of a bad reputation in some circles, (see shouldiuseaqrcode.com), they can be a valuable marketing resource when used to their full potential. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to utilize QR codes in a way that engages the consumer. In case you’re unfamiliar with QR codes, they’re those strange-looking black and white square designs that you’ve probably seen in magazine ads, direct mail pieces, in-store displays, or a variety of other places. They’re essentially 2-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone app, prompting the desired action (usually taking the customer to the website you designate). The primary advantage of QR codes is that they allow you to make a direct connection between the real, physical world that your customer inhabits and the online destination you want them to visit. When used properly, QR codes can have a significant positive impact on your web traffic. Here are a few of the ways that you can effectively utilize QR codes to connect with your customers:
Place Them Purposefully
Part of the reason that QR codes have gotten such a bad rap is that they’re so often misused. Case in point: Inexplicably, QR codes have been used by a variety of companies on roadside billboards. This is a bad idea for a few reasons: First, the vast majority of automobile trips in the US are single-occupant, meaning the driver is the only person in the car. This already means that most who see the QR code won’t be scanning it. Even if a given car does carry a passenger and that passenger does decide that they want to scan, limited time with the code in view and the movement of the automobile make it much more difficult to scan than a more ideal placement. The best places for QR codes are convenient, easily visible locations where consumers will have time to scan the code, follow the link, and perform the desired action. A great example would be a magazine ad. Magazines are usually read either during leisure time or when a person is waiting for a service (e.g., at the doctor’s office, or during an oil change), meaning that you probably won’t be competing for the consumer’s attention. It’s also very easy to scan a code from a magazine, since it can be held in your hand.
Make it Exceedingly Easy for Customers to “Like” You
If you use social media to promote your business (and if you don’t, why not?!?), then your physical marketing probably asks your customers to “Like” you on Facebook and “Follow” you on Twitter. The overwhelming majority of people probably won’t take the time to type in the URL of your website or look you up when the advertisement is in front of them, and they probably won’t be thinking about your business the next time they log in. You can increase your chances of getting them to follow you on social media by making it convenient for them to do so. When you ask your customers to follow you, provide QR codes with links directly to your social media pages.
One of the most common mistakes businesses make when using QR codes is to simply link to their website with no real consideration of why. In order to get your customers (current and potential) to scan your code and follow the link, you must give them incentive to do so. Let’s use the example of a barbecue sauce on the grocery store shelf. To include a QR code on the label with the caption “Scan the Code to Visit Us Online” may capture the attention of those few die-hards that are already devoted to the brand, but the majority of consumers will pay no mind. If -- on the other hand -- the caption read “Scan the Code for Great <your brand> Recipes,” and linked to popular recipes including the product, consumers would be significantly more inclined to scan and follow, because something they desire is to be found on the other end.
So, Should You Have QR Codes?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes, so long as you have a well-considered strategy by which to use them. After all, you can generate them for free using any of a variety of online code generators. QR codes -- despite their reputation -- can be a valuable asset for your business.