QR codes don’t always deliver value
Written By Kevin Joyner, 589 days ago
The QR code is an increasingly common sight; it can be a valuable tool for marketers. Too often, however, QR codes are being put to poor use, offering limited value to the consumer, and doing nothing for an advertiser’s brand or bottom line.
I was handed a flyer this week, promoting a new band or album or something. At the bottom, alongside the URL, and the Facebook and twitter handles, was the QR code. I took out my phone and scanned the code. It was printed very small, so it took a moment to scan, but then… the homepage of the band’s website; hard to read, not mobile-optimised. I felt slightly disappointed at my wasted effort. I did not click on the website.
We see QR codes on banners and billboards, on flyers, direct mail materials, t-shirts, on products themselves… and it makes sense: as an end-of-2010 study from Google revealed, 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping. The QR code is a way for the marketer to direct part of the consumer’s smartphone behaviour.
The primary usage of the ‘Quick Response’, two-dimensional code is the representation of a URL, so that smartphone users can access online content easily, without having to type the URL into their phone. With the URL encoded, marketers can also very easily add tracking to it, or otherwise customise it; and one clear application of this is the measurement of ad placement performance.
So the QR code is a tool for delivering experiences and for gaining insight. It can be used to prompt engagement, and sales, and to learn what works to these ends and what doesn’t. Undoubtedly, there can be value in the QR code for the marketer.
But the value for the marketer relies on the delivery of value to the consumer. A QR code can be useless for a consumer: it can lead to unusable or useless content; and this will deliver little engagement, few sales and fruitless insight. Too often it seems the QR code is used – without proper consideration – only so that it can be seen to be used.
Select Start Studios wrote an excellent post on making QR codes usable. Making them usable is part of making them offer value. “Valuable,” though, is more than “usable”; it’s “useful” too.
Put another way: there must be a point. Before a marketer uses a QR code, they should ask themselves this:
- can my audience actually use this code?
- does it direct to a mobile-optimised experience?
- AND when the user gets there, are they presented with something VALUABLE?
- for the consumer, when they scan this, “what’s the point?”
Here’s an example of QR codes put to good use, in a way that offers real value to the consumer: Tesco’s virtual QR code-driven smartphone stores, in South Korea. Usable and valuable; and problem-solving, for both the consumer and the advertiser.