Back in November we wrote a post to enhance a discussion that took place during #SMChat on the benefits and some best practices of using QR Codes. Since that time the conversation has come up a number of times in many different settings, including clients asking us how they could or should incorporate the codes into their marketing programs. Additionally, many people have asked for a follow up piece or more information, so here it is, Part 1. Background, and some best and worst practices for QR Codes. Case Histories will be in Part 2.
Many people are still asking us what is a QR code and how does it work, so a quick group of links to help answer those questions. QR Codes originated in Japan in 1994. For a full history and definition Wikipedia is a good source with an easy to read description. There are many sites that can be used to create QR codes and there are many readers for smartphones as well. The New York Times, in March of 2011 gave good information as to how to generate the codes, and a list of some code generating sites. One of the best lists that we have seen of QR code readers is at Mobile-Barcodes.com. If you are looking to do something fun with personal QR Codes you might check out Codee.
Using QR codes to push information is, as we mentioned in our previous post, a poor use of the technology. Hanging a QR code on a piece of paper inside the glass door of a building with a note to scan for a list of available apartments, as we saw at one downtown NYC building, might be helpful if someone wanted to stand there scan and try to read the list on their mobile device, but it is poor marketing practice. No information was captured for follow up, and there was no interaction. This use probably would fall under the description of a recent Mashable post by Jon Barocas.
However, using QR codes to give people an opportunity to interact with a product and at the same time enable the marketer to capture information, is a good use of the codes.
Another good use of QR codes is the ability to provide additional information, particularly in the b2b space. For example, a company prints a catalog of their products. Next to each product is a QR code. By scanning that code the buyer is able to be taken directly to a landing page on the company site to order a sample. The buyer does not have to enter the details of the product they only login to their account and place the order, it is more efficient for both parties. This is ideal where the distribution method is through brokers or distributors, but the manufacturer maintains a website that can be accessed by the public.
Another use for the codes that have started popping up is to create interactive TV. Here too if the interactivity captures information for follow up it is a good use.
The codes also are useful when they automatically share information such as Social Passport. When a retailer uses something like Social Passport, they are rewarding their customer with an offer, and the customer has shared the offer becoming a brand advocate for the retailer. In addition, because the code is scanned in the store at the time of purchase, the retailer is able to engage with the purchaser, and build on the relationship.
When marketers use the codes to enhance the relationship, it works, when they use the codes to just push information, it will not be adopted by the masses.
In a future post we will provide a few case histories of QR codes in action.