QR codes are finally having their moment. They’re popping up on restaurant menus, in retail store windows, and in direct mail promotions. It’s not new tech — see BRAND United’s history of the QR code and how financial institutions have been using the technology — but we are now seeing the consumer adoption that printers and marketers have hoped for all along.
The QR code’s sudden 2020 rise to prominence is due in part to its ability to bridge our physical spaces to digital worlds, touch-free. With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, we’re all relieved any time we can avoid picking up a menu or using a pen to authorize a credit card payment. QR codes make these contactless transactions possible — plus so much more. Here’s how to leverage this emergent technology for your brand.
The primary use of the QR code is to add digital information or context to a printed piece or object. Marketers can use this to pack more information onto a mailer or packaging, but you’re not limited to linking to the About Us page on your website; increase engagement by linking to a brand video. Better yet, deliver value to your audience by making that video educational. For example: a bag of coffee with a QR code that pulls up a video walk-through on how to make the perfect pour-over.
Start a Conversation
Our goal as marketers is always to increase interactivity. If we can deliver a positive brand interaction, brand affinity and brand loyalty are not far behind. In fact, research from Deloitte has shown that consumers think about and describe their relationships with their favorite brands much like they do their friendships: “They expect two-way dialogue that builds and deepens over time, just as with a friend.”
QR codes can facilitate this two-way dialogue if you use them to launch a communication channel like Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Message, or your company’s live chat. (Just make sure you’re responsive — an open communication channel with no response is like a friend hanging up on you every time you call.)
Part of the reason QR codes got a bad rap in the marketing world is that they’re ugly — they’re glorified barcodes, and they look like it — but there’s a certain amount of design tweaking you can do to make your codes feel more on-brand. Try using rounded corners, printing in your brand colors, adding your logo, or incorporating a call-to-action. Just make sure to test your final design to ensure it’s still readable by QR code scanners.
Personalize Your Promotions
Everyone loves a promo code, but a personalized incentive based on individual demographics, behaviors, or buying habits is even better. Use variable data printing to create direct mail promotions with individualized promotions that can be “revealed” by scanning the QR code. For the recipient, it’s like spinning the Wheel of Fortune or scratching a lotto ticket — a small brand interaction that makes them feel like they’ve won something. For the marketer, it enables you to provide unique promotions based on what you know works with different segments of your audience.
Make Reorders Easy
Point-of-sale QR codes that are integrated with payment systems make checkout simpler and safer, but think beyond the initial transaction. How can you make it easy for a first-time customer to become a brand loyalist? Consider a QR code printed on a receipt or packaging that enables easy reorder or links to an account where payment is saved. Toast, PayPal, and Venmo offer quick payment options with QR code integration, or you can link directly to your ecommerce site.
Change It Up
QR codes don’t have to link to static destinations. Today’s dynamic QR codes allow you to swap out content to provide new interactions every time a user scans, giving them a reason to hang onto your brand packaging or printed promotion. Used this way, the QR code essentially becomes another communication channel, which your audience can scan to hear your latest updates, watch your newest video, or take advantage of your newest incentives.
Make the Leap to AR
Now that the general public is becoming accustomed to scanning as the action that unlocks digital content, greater adoption of augmented reality (AR) is on the horizon. If you’ve considered dabbling in AR (I’ve covered a low-stakes way to experiment with AR in this column before), QR codes can be a gateway to more immersive, interactive digital experiences — think games with point scoring systems and leaderboards.
Final Tip: Add Tracking to Links
The more you know, the better informed your decisions will be. Make sure to add tracking to your links (most marketers use Google Analytics for this) so that you know where your customers are coming from, how frequently they’re engaging, and how successful your QR codes are.