What Can QR Codes Do for Your Business?

By Nick Damoulakis

Despite recent research from Forrester that shows only a one percent adoption rate, there’s a rare consensus from marketing executives at the mention of Quick Response (QR codes) that they are the harbinger of things to come for the industry.

Originally created for tracking vehicle parts, QR codes were developed in Japan by Denso Wave Inc. (a Toyota subsidiary) and can now be found throughout the country, tagging everything from magazine ads to posters to fast food wrappers. QR codes provide these businesses with an opportunity to drive the use of mobile content and extend their product’s packaging with more information and deeper consumer engagement.

If the success of QR codes in Japan is any indication of the potential market in the U.S., and it is, implementing a QR campaign now will give your clients and company a significant competitive advantage.

While a stalled rate of adopters stateside may make you hesitant to implement a QR campaign, now is actually the perfect time for your company to build a formal strategy using this technology — mainly because investing in QR codes is pigeon-holed as a risk for businesses, so vendors have undervalued their services. That said, in order to ensure the success of your campaign, keep in mind that additional considerations need to be taken in order to ensure its success.

The rise in use of QR codes in Japan can be largely attributed to two factors: the benefit to consumers is both unmatched and apparent, and smart phones are purchased with scanning tools already downloaded — thus bypassing the initial “adoption hurdle” for businesses. While increased supply and visibility will encourage smartphone users to download scanning tools, marketers need to focus on exciting consumers by creating meaningful and creative ways for consumers to benefit from this technology.

In Japan, users of public transportation can download and read details of a train timetable via QR bar codes, thus providing them with an easier commute. While increasing your brand’s awareness with flexible and extended packaging information may be your impetus for using QR codes, remember that concise messaging still resonates best, and that learning more about your company may not be enough to entice consumers. Rather than using QR codes to inundate consumers with jargon, create meaningful tools for your clients and for consumers. This can be achieved by first understanding who is using and likely to use this technology, and then through a  careful consideration of how your business can use QR codes.

Who Is Using This Technology Today?

Only a small portion of mobile owners in the U.S. have the technology to use a QR code. These consumers are young adults — Gen Y (18 to 30) and Gen X (31 to 44) with high income. Starbucks has started to use QRcodesforpayments, and according to the company, 52 percent of their consumers report seeing QR codes before and 28 percent have scanned the codes. These figures are irregularly high compared to some other industry sectors, but indicative of how the company was able to mobilize the use of QR codes within an existing consumer base that is most likely to use this technology.

Similar success was seen among other top brands that serve to this demographic. Ford, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Best Buy and Ralph Lauren have all been noted for using QR codes in marketing and advertising initiatives. Overall, in 2010, QR code usage showed an increase of 1,200 percent from July to December. Among social media users, nearly 57 percent of Facebook and Twitter members report having scanned a mobile bar code at least once in the past year. Therefore, if your company has an active social media presence, QR code campaigns are shaping up as the next step in sustaining its brand awareness.

How Can You Use QR Codes?

My company has printed QR codes on the back of business cards. This gives my clients a way to quickly learn more about the company, while my contact information is being stored on their cell phones. As an innovative firm, we’ve worked with our clients using QR codes on print advertisements such as brochures, magazine and newspaper ads, and posters. We are also looking to add QR codes to a campaign for a museum in order to create an interactive tour for those interested in visiting. Recently, we’ve also suggested that a client use QR codes to attract tourists to visit a small town to participate in a scavenger hunt. When visiting with the Pentagon Memorial Fund, they were considering putting QR codes on each memorial unit so visitors could learn more about each victim of the 9/11 attacks. Undoubtedly, the possibilities of attaching hyperlinks to your marketing materials will make this technology a great tool. For now, we just have to help consumers find their way toward adoption.

Have you used QR codes in any interesting ways for business? Let us know in the comments.
Originally published: Aug 30, 2011

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