Earlier this year there was an article published in Forbes magazine predicting the death of QR codes.
The article points out that less than 20% of smart phone users scan a QR code on a monthly basis. The article concluded that “QR codes are dying in their current form.” I disagree.
As more and more Americans turn to their mobile phones for information, the potential for QR codes grows ever larger. (Smart phone proliferation surged above 50% in early 2012). So, rather than wait for QR codes to die or, conversely, assume they’ll be just fine, marketers should take proactive steps to use QR codes more effectively right now.
First, businesses need to have offers that are QR code-specific. Just as marketers are finally figuring out that they need to have mobile specific offers, so to should marketers have QR code-specific offers.
Second, there is a difference between using QR codes in unique ways to get noticed, and using QR codes in unique ways just to be weird.A really great example of using a QR code in a unique way to gain business and publicity is what a retailer in South Korea did recently. They created a ‘shadow’ QR code that could only be scanned between noon and 1. For 23 hours a day this ‘shadow’ QR code looked like a weird sculpture thing. But, for 1 hour a day, when the sun was directly overhead, shadows would turn the weird sculpture thing into a QR code. It is, first and foremost, incredible engineering. It is also a great marketing. Watch this video to see what happened.
The unique idea of this South Korean company is very different from the company that slaps QR codes on trucks, vans, windows, walls and napkins. Just because you can put a QR code on something doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes it honestly seems like marketers are attempting to outdo each other in a ‘weirdest places to put QR codes’ contest. In a contest like that, everyone loses.
Third, put QR codes in places that smart phone users will see. Remember that 100% of QR codes are scanned by smart phones. It is difficult to scan a QR code on a moving vehicle or while you are eating. If you wouldn’t market to a certain demographic with a mobile marketing campaign, why would you market to that same demographic with a QR code? Marketers shouldn’t. But often do.
Fourth, sometimes marketers make it too difficult on themselves. They try to force a type of engagement they want. For example, too many QR codes force the scanner into viewing a website or looking up additional information. These are not ‘natural’ actions on a smart phone. What is a natural action? A phone call. A stunning 61% of mobile searches result in a phone call. A majority of all mobile ads result in a phone call. The most common and most natural result of any mobile activity is a phone call.
What does this mean for the QR code loving crowd?
It means that QR codes should be linked to phone numbers. When someone scans a QR code it should automatically call your business. (This helps businesses too because phone calls produce substantially higher close rates than web visits).
Again, don’t force the customer to engage with you in a way that you demand. Let them engage with you in the way that is most natural. And for smart phone users, that way is a phone call. QR codes are no exception.
I don’t agree with the author of the Forbes article that QR codes are dying. But, I do agree with him when he says this: “QR codes are running a thin line of almost turning into spam each time you scan. Until businesses embrace how to use QR codes to support their overall marketing goals…” QR codes are in danger of dying. He’s right. Unless businesses change the way they use QR codes, the QR code will eventually fade into obscurity.
Contributed by Jason Wells
Jason Wells is the CEO of ContactPoint. Their new product, LogMyCalls is an intelligent call tracking solution that allows marketers to measure marketing ROI, lead quality, customer intelligence and conversion rates from online and offline sources. Prior to joining ContactPoint, Jason served as Senior VP of Sony Pictures over mobile business. He earned his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.