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Quick Response: How Strategic Execution Makes QR Effective

QR-CodeQuick response (QR) codes are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since 1994, when Toyota used the scannable labels on auto assembly lines. More recently, QR has entered the marketing world as a tech-savvy way to connect mobile users to the web, and your brand.

According to Fast Company, it’s a craze that Americans have gone wild over. Before your company gets too excited about QR, consider why mobile is important to any marketing campaign, and how the most effective QR campaign (however flashy it may be), starts with a solid strategy.

Know the Mobile Landscape

Any time you leave your home, it’s likely that the three things you have with you are your keys, wallet and phone. However, cell phones aren't just for calls anymore, they're for access to information when and where you need it, whether it's a map to the closest pizza shop or a review of the product in your hand at the checkout counter. Therefore, when you are in a store or on the road and ready to buy, you are more likely to use your mobile device; less aggressive product browsing is easier on a desktop.

Tapping into buyers while they’re mobile is a great way to hit your audience at a point further in the decision-making process. In fact, a study commissioned by Google found that 88 percent of users looking for information on their smartphones are likely to take action within one day. QR codes are a fun and engaging way to put your brand directly onto a users mobile device when they need it most. 

Start with the Strategy

As with any of your other marketing tactics and channels, make sure not to become so caught up in the details of shiny, “new” QR to forget about how it will tie into the overall strategy of your larger campaign, message or objective. When planning for a QR campaign, consider the following:

Audience: Is your audience familiar with QR technology? While marketers are knowledgeable, adoption among the general public has grown slowly:

  • ComScore research found that in the US, QR codes are mainly used in traditional ads
  • Another study from Lab42 found that of 500 Americans, 58 percent were unfamiliar with QR codes.
  • Among the student demographic, a Ypulse survey found that 64 percent of high school and college students say they are unfamiliar with QR codes, and of the 36 percent that are familiar, only 17 percent have scanned them.

User Experience: There’s a technical side to what happens after the scan.

For the best user experience, make sure your website is mobile. Consider dedicating a specific landing page to the campaign, or an even more personalized user experience with a pURL campaign that tracks responses and preferences.

Ensure that you have analytics set up, are using a credible link shortening system to avoid hacking or unintentional redirects, and have the functionality (large buttons, clear calls to action, etc.) to make for an enjoyable user experience.

With the right technologies in place behind the scenes, the creative marketer can now devote time to the meat of the campaign—what happens for the user after the scan?

Purpose, Value & Call to Action: What is the purpose of the QR code? Hopefully, it relates to a larger campaign, or the QR campaign itself is a creative and engaging way to drive leads while providing value to your audience. Start planning with this end-goal in mind to make sure QR makes sense for your marketing strategy.

QR Codes with Purpose

While attending the FutureM conference in Boston, Farrah Bostic (@farrahbostic) shared one of the best examples of QR technology I’ve seen to date. What made it so great? It had function, utility, and it provided value to its audience.

Tesco Home Plus in Korea set up virtual grocery stores in subway and metro stations for people to do their grocery shopping while in line for the train. (See video below.) Using QR codes placed on each product, users can create a virtual shopping list, check out, and have their groceries delivered to their homes or office—all via a mobile phone.

Why it’s great:

  • Tesco knew its audience. Launching the campaign on-the-go to Korean professionals—profiled as some of the busiest people in the world—gave the company an early win and nod to expand in other markets.
  • It’s useful. The QR codes do something, as opposed to taking you to an ad or mobile site for additional information. The campaign makes customers’ lives easier.
  • It’s beautiful. The creative behind the campaign makes you feel like the subway or metro station has been transformed to a grocery store. It catches attention, while the functionality and usefulness keep it.

What campaigns have you seen that drive traffic, work seamlessly, and make you take notice? Do they also tie to an overarching brand strategy, message or objective?

Jessica Donlon is a consultant at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @JessicaDonlon.

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Image Credit: Hudson

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