As QR Codes have gained more acceptance in America, marketing firms that track QR code scans have found interesting trends. For one, consumers scan a majority of QR codes – 60% – in their home. In addition, QR code usage continues to increase, and the total number of scans has doubled from the second quarter in 2011 to the second quarter in 2012.
Jonathan Rick, CEO of The Jonathan Rick Group, says it’s a combination of convenience and trendiness that is driving the numbers up.
“For one, scanning a barcode is easier than typing a URL on tiny keys,” he says. “For another, QR codes benefit from ‘shiny new object’ syndrome. They’re the cool thing to do.”
Lessons for communicators: Be creative and track QR code scans
Rick says QR codes still have a long way to go before becoming totally mainstream—the key question is, “Will my mother use this?” he says—but they should certainly be an option for communicators and marketers. This is especially true if marketers are developing contests or loyalty programs and want to track who, when, where, and how often each QR code is scanned.
Everybody wants a deal, Slagen says, so the notion that contests do best hardly surprises him. Other research acquired by tracking QR code scans and evaluating the analytics has shown that discounts and coupons are by far the No. 1 thing people scanning QR codes want.
Nor is Slagen shocked that people scan from home. Citing data from Search Engine Watch, he said nearly 50 percent of the Olympic-related searches people in the United States and United Kingdom have made this year have been through phones and tablets.
“People have their phones with them as they watch TV, are influenced, and then use their phones to search, and the same can be said about QR campaigns that are done well,” he says.
Where campaigns don’t work, Slagen says, is the place lots of brands put them: in subway stations, where people can’t access mobile Internet signals.
“So stop running your QR campaigns in subway stations where smartphones don’t work, understand how people currently see the value of QR codes, and then lead them into the next generation of QR codes,” he says.
Holtz adds that brands simply need to be more creative with how they implement QR codes.
Most implementations are pretty boring, he says, but some, such as this one at a South Korean department store, get people interested by being creative. In another example, a brand of AC adapter puts QR codes on its packaging so people can check whether the adapter works with their laptops. That’s just handy.
In addition, brands should track QR code scans and other data to gain insight into the nature of their customers. Such data can then be used to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and assist marketers in better targeting specific demographics. Information on available tracking and analytics features is available from Barcode Connections.
Some tech experts have already rung the death knell for QR codes, as new technologies such as near-field communication become more widely available, but Holtz says NFC isn’t likely to subsume QR codes.
“You have to be close enough to touch your phone to the item containing the NFC chip, while QR codes can be scanned from a distance,” he says. “Each will wind up being used based on its strength.”
Leslie Handmaker, marketing manager at Next Day Flyers, an online printing service, says QR codes are showing up on more and more print materials, such as brochures, postcards, and business cards. Scanning codes at home isn’t that far-fetched.
“Many of the materials we print are postcard mailers containing QR codes that are sent out to people at their residence,” she says. “We also see freelancers and consultants incorporating QR codes into their business card and postcard layouts to easily direct potential clients to websites and LinkedIn profiles.”
Max Goldberg, a comedian and co-founder of social media marketing firm Shmedia, says QR codes will explode much further once smartphones aren’t limited by 3G wireless Internet.
“A higher-speed mobile Internet will drastically affect the adoption and creativity in use of QR codes,” he says. “Expect that in 2013, or maybe 2014 at the latest. The codes themselves can lead to a much richer experience at that point, because the pipe itself is wider for that experience to travel.”