Quick-response (QR codes) are nearly everywhere these days. Take a walk around the neighborhood, and you’ll see QR codes on everything from movie posters to real estate for-sale signs. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the house to see QR codes: You’ll find QR codes in emails, on business websites and on social media platforms.
The ubiquity of QR codes is down to their effectiveness. They can be used for many purposes, such as facilitating contactless payments, sharing content, registering for events and, most importantly, marketing to potential customers.
QR codes are efficient and effective at capturing attention and getting people to act. What’s more, they provide businesses with a wealth of data to help them further refine their digital marketing strategy.
Read on to learn more about QR codes: How they work, the benefits of using QR codes for marketing and how you can successfully incorporate them into your digital marketing strategy.
First Things First: What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that stores more information than a conventional barcode. It also scans more quickly, even from various angles, without the need for special equipment. To scan a QR code, all you need is your mobile device.
You can embed over 4,000 text characters as well as phone numbers and website URLs into QR codes. Other types of information that you can store in a QR code include:
• vCard files
• Calendar data
• Contact information
• Email address
There are many creative uses of QR codes, from helping with review generation to lead capture. This is especially true now that technological advances and changing consumer behavior are facilitating even more widespread adoption of QR technology.
Thinking Out of the Box: Creative Uses of QR Codes in Marketing
It’s easy to create QR codes and include them in an ad. However, a more creative approach not only can help you get more scans but also elevate your entire digital marketing strategy.
Big brands like L’oreal, who placed QR codes in taxis for passengers stuck in traffic to scan, and Burger King, who gave away 10,000 burgers as part of its QR code promotion, are just two examples of how creativity gets results. However, not all businesses have the resources to pull off QR code marketing on such a large scale.
However, that doesn’t mean small- to medium-sized businesses can’t benefit, too. Here are some creative yet practical ways to get the most out of QR codes in marketing.
• Include QR codes on product packaging to provide customers with helpful details about their purchase
• Add QR codes to print ads to bridge your traditional and digital marketing efforts
• Create QR codes that lead customers to a page where they can leave a review
• Lead scanners to exclusive augmented reality (AR) content
• Place digital codes in emails and online newsletters
• Incentivize scanning with special offers or exclusive deals
• Use QR codes to lead customers to app downloads
• Give customers a preview of new services, products or content
• Take scanners to your LinkedIn page, company bio or official website
• Use QR to facilitate enrolment in seminars, workshops or other events
But Wait – Do People Still Use QR Codes?
The short answer is Yes. But to understand why QR codes are back and more relevant than ever, it’s essential to understand why they fell out of favor in the first place.
QR codes were invented in the 1990s by a Japanese company named Denso Wave. However, they took off in the U.S. until several years later.
In 2010, major retailers such as Macy’s, Best Buy and Target used QR codes for business, specifically in their campaigns to deliver value to customers and boost their engagement. Meanwhile, restaurants, shops and other businesses encouraged Foursquare “check-ins” by posting QR codes on windows and near cash registers.
However, while QR codes were used and continue to be used in the background, such as in warehousing and logistics, they fell in visible popularity among consumers. This may be due to a number of factors.
First, most people didn’t know what they were (97 percent of U.S. consumers, according to research released by INC in 2012).
Second, smartphones back then didn’t come with built-in QR code readers, and few people wanted to go to the trouble of downloading a third-party QR code reader. Visiting the company website or social media to get information was faster and required no extra steps.
Thus, tech experts and marketers alike pronounced a death sentence on the QR code, at least for marketing purposes. It turns out that they did so way too early.
There’s Life in This Old Tech Yet
Some naysayers claim that the technology is dead. However, the numbers don’t lie: More people are scanning QR codes now than just a few years ago.
According to Statista, 52.6 million smartphone users in the U.S. scanned a QR code on their mobile devices in 2019, while 75.8 million did the same in 2021. That number is forecasted to grow to 99.5 million in 2025.
Here are some reasons why:
Social Media and QR: A Match Made in Marketing Heaven
More than four billion people worldwide use social media. So it’s not surprising that when a social media platform releases a new feature that makes sharing and accessing content more convenient and fun, users are quick to try it out.
In 2015, Snapchat introduced “Snapcodes,” a feature that allowed users to customize QR codes and share them to add friends. These QR codes also unlocked features, such as new filters, leading to fast and widespread adoption among Snapchat users.
On the marketing side, brands and marketers could use Snapcodes to deliver branded content, offers, filters and more. Using Snapcodes was made easy because the app doubled as a QR code reader for its users.
Other social media platforms followed suit. In fact, in 2018, Instagram released a similar feature, “nametag,” a QR code unique to a specific profile.
Nametags could be scanned via the Instagram app. Then, in 2020, Instagram replaced the feature with QR codes that could be scanned and shared even outside the app.
The results are that more people now know how QR codes work. It’s no longer an unfamiliar technology with few real-life applications. And, apart from knowing how QR codes work, consumers today are also keen to consume content delivered via this method.
Better Technology, Easier Access
In the 2000s and early 2010s, people had to download third-party QR code readers to scan QR codes. Not so today.
Most modern Android phones have QR code readers built into their cameras. The same goes for Apple devices. Even if a user’s phone doesn’t have a native scanner, it likely has the Google app preinstalled. This can be used, by way of Google Lens, to scan QR codes.
On the marketing end, it’s easy to find a business QR code generator online. You might need to pay to access more advanced features such as analytics, but generally, using a business QR code generator just to create QR codes is free. This makes the benefits of QR codes accessible to even small businesses and start-ups.
Contactless Is Key
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of contactless solutions for both B2C and B2B. Seemingly overnight, restaurants started using QR codes instead of paper menus that were handed from person to person. Gas stations began accepting QR-enabled payments, governments delivered public safety information via QR codes on posters and care providers used them to direct customers or patients to online symptom screening tests.
Marketing and More: The Benefits of QR Codes for Business
Now that the general public knows how QR codes work, social media has made them cool again and scanning them is easier than ever, they are here to stay. But what are the benefits of QR codes, and why should you start using QR codes for marketing?
Business QR Codes Are Trackable and Traceable
There are two types of QR codes: static and dynamic. Static codes are generally not used for marketing purposes because they cannot be tracked. However, dynamic QR codes—the type used in marketing—can be. This makes it easy to measure how well your QR code campaign is working.
A business QR code generator allows users to create custom dynamic QR codes. Many paid apps also allow for easier tracking and measuring of data gleaned through scans. Using a business QR code reader, you can get analytics on the following:
• Total number of scans – This shows you how many times your QR code has been scanned, including repeat scans from the same device or user.
• Number of unique scans – This shows you how many scans your QR code has received from different users/different devices.
• Device operating system – This lets you know what kind of device your scanners are using. For instance, if your analytics show that most of your scanners are using iOS, that means they’re using either their iPhones or iPads to scan your QR codes.
• Location – This lets you know the city and country of the people who have scanned your QR codes.
All of this information is helpful for understanding customer behavior, which in turn can inform your approach to targeting and marketing. They also allow you to see whether your approach is effective or if you need to make changes to achieve your marketing goals.
However, remember that your business QR code generator and other methods you use for capturing data via QR codes should comply with the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Businesses that need help tracking, measuring and interpreting QR code analytics may also reach out to digital marketing consultants with experience in using QR codes for marketing. These professionals have the expertise and tools necessary to set key performance indicators (KPIs) for your QR code digital marketing strategy and turn cold data into actionable insights while remaining compliant with applicable data privacy laws.
Business QR Codes Build Brand Awareness
You can use QR codes in emails, ads and newsletters and even print media to direct customers to your social media pages, encouraging them to like, follow and engage with your brand. Additionally, you can direct customers to your website, where they can learn more about your brand’s story, offerings and competitive differentiators.
What’s more, creative uses of QR codes are memorable and help put businesses top of mind. Take, for instance, Amazon’s Halloween Surprise campaign in 2020. The delivery boxes during the campaign period included a pumpkin-spaced shape where customers could draw faces and a QR code that, when scanned, unlocked an augmented reality (AR) experience.
They Improve the User Experience
QR codes direct customers to a landing page or other URL sans time-consuming steps like memorizing a link and typing it into a browser. This helps you get customers right where they need to be in their buyer’s journey, whether on your social media page to learn more about your brand, on your review generation page to provide feedback or on your eCommerce website so they can make a purchase.
What’s more, creative uses of QR codes are embraced by consumers, not avoided like conventional ads. This is true as long as the codes offer something of value to scanners, such as helpful information, a free item or service, custom content and an enhanced customer experience.
Business QR Codes Can Help Generate Reviews
Customer feedback is important to organizations of all sizes and in all industries, but it is especially so for small to medium-sized businesses. A report by TrustPilot found that 88 percent of consumers worldwide read reviews to find local businesses.
Meanwhile, a survey by BrightLocal showed that 49 percent of all consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Meanwhile, previous research from the same organization found that 71 percent of consumers will leave feedback if asked.
This is why review generation is a must. However, getting reviews from more customers can be challenging because leaving feedback often requires multiple steps. To get more responses, it’s crucial to simplify the process.
For instance, for clients of Rize Reviews, using QR codes to generate reviews is straightforward. Here’s how the process works:
“Our customers take the QR code and print them out to get reviews when the customer is physically inside their store, location or face-to-face somehow,” details Tim Clarke, the senior reputation manager of Rize Reviews. “The face-to-face interaction and easy process on the smartphone works great.”
With a QR code, you can direct customers to a page where they can post comments about your services or products. The next step is review management, which can be done by digital marketing consultants or a trusted provider of online reputation management services.
Cracking the Code With Thrive and Rize Reviews
QR codes in marketing, while effective, need to be part of a structured digital marketing strategy for them to achieve their full potential. The ideal marketing strategy leaves no gaps, incorporating a variety of approaches to:
• Widen reach
• Create social currency
• Generate consistent leads
• Build brand awareness
• Increase brand trust
• Establish your business as a thought leader
• Boost conversions
At Thrive Internet Marketing, we provide a full suite of solutions that deliver sustained and sustainable success for our clients. Meanwhile, our sister company Rize Reviews provides reputation management solutions that strengthens businesses’ online presence, increase organic rankings and protect their reputation.
To learn more about Rize Reviews, visit their website.