According to a study by Forrester Research, 5% of U.S. adults scanned a bar code with their smartphone in 2011, up from 1% in 2010. In other words, QR codes are on track to reach a critical mass of usage over the next year, making them a truly viable marketing medium.
The advantage of these scannable codes is speed: instead of reading and typing in a long web address, you just open the code-reader app on your smartphone, hold your phone over the code as if taking a picture. The app reads the code (which is just a link to a specific web page) and instantly displays that web page on your screen. Now that we understand how the technology works, let’s take a look at some of ways you can employ QR codes to move consumers through the purchase decision process.
Assist consumers with information gathering, to move them more quickly from awareness to interest – A magazine ad or point-of-purchase sign can generate awareness of the new product, while a QR code can then link an interested consumer to a video that provides more information – for example, a demo on how to use the product, a scientific expert’s view of the product, or user testimonials. This is an efficient way to educate consumers about highly innovative or technical products. Here are three great examples that are likely to speed up the buyer decision process significantly.
EXAMPLE 1: A print ad for Columbia’s new Omni-Heat Electric jackets shows us a fashionable jacket being worn by a skier, which linked to a video showing how you operate the jacket’s heating system.
EXAMPLE 2: A magazine ad for ArmourBite (Under Armour’s new line of performance-enhancing mouthpieces) grabs attention with the image and endorsement of hot Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, and the QR code links to a video explaining the science behind the product. An advantage of video links through YouTube: you automatically see links to related videos, including product reviews by dentists and sports experts.
EXAMPLE 3: At Aveda salons, stylists’ mirrors now carry a sign advertising Aveda’s new Invati solutions for thinning hair, with a QR code linking you to a video of consumer testimonials, describing how they used the product and the results they got.
Convert Intention to a Purchase – Anywhere you display your product, you can include a QR code that links consumers right to an online ordering page for the product.
EXAMPLE 1: A recent US Postal Service ad, for example, promoted their free Flat Rate Shipping Kit with a code that took you right to the online order form – making it super-easy for readers to convert interest to action.
EXAMPLE 2: DERMAdoctor, a specialty moisturizer with limited retail distribution, also took advantage of a QR code to drop interested consumers to their online ordering page.
EXAMPLE 3: Cuisinart’s Coffee Plus machine can brew coffee and also provided heated water for other beverages. The magazine ad generates initial interest, and the QR code takes you to a web page where you can choose from multiple next-steps: learn more about the device, find a retailer, or order the product online. Whereas most of the QR code executions we’ve seen link you to just a single action, this one gives the consumer more control of their next step in the purchase process.
Drive Traffic to the Store – Ever wished you had the phone # or address of a restaurant handy, to make last-minute reservations or to direct a friend to join you? You can now scan a QR code off a store ad or signage, and that information will be copied into your smartphone’s contact file. QR codes can deliver other information as well, such as hours of operation and current specials. A QR code can even be set up to transmit just a phone #, so it comes right up in your phone’s dialer, ready for you to hit send and make the call.
Make your service easier for consumers to use, increasing consumer satisfaction and repeat sales –
EXAMPLE 1: You may have already seen a QR code on an airline boarding pass or a concert ticket. Just save the QR code image in your phone’s photo gallery (so you don’t have to rely on an Internet connection later), and ticket-takers can scan the code right off your phone – no more digging for (or worse, losing!) wrinkled bits of paper.
EXAMPLE 2: Similarly, Best Buy’s price signs now display QR codes that bring up product reviews and ratings, helping to overcome a common barrier to technology purchasing (“I need to go home and research this some more, before I spend the money”).
EXAMPLE 3: Despite America’s increasing nutrition consciousness, it’s still rare to see nutrition and ingredient information on restaurant menus, and good luck getting correct deets from a server. Now, a QR code on a restaurant menu can bring up an item’s nutrition facts, a list of ingredients in a specific item, or even a video of the item being prepared. Or how about this: since the iPhone has become the latest tool in cranky-child mollification, wouldn’t be great if there were posters in all restaurants and waiting rooms bearing a QR code that provided a free game download?
Next Steps for Marketers: