QR codes are fun! From bikini bottoms and tattoos to headstones, these scannable images that can be “read” by a smartphone to link to a website are a marketing novelty. But marketers are going to have to start using these trackable codes more intelligently if they are going to move from a gimmick into a useful marketing tool.
Don’t get me wrong – QR codes are useful. They allow users to get detailed information in a quick (hence the QR – quick response) manner not before possible, and marketers can track QR code scans directly back to the magazine, direct mail, sign or even body part from which they came. However, many marketers are using QR codes simply for the novelty and not providing any real value to consumers – running that risk that consumers will grow tired of the codes before smart marketers truly prove their value.
First, many marketers are using QR codes in mediums that don’t make sense. For example, Email Insider, of all places, suggests integrating QR codes into email content and email signatures. Please tell me, what value does this provide consumers? For starters, more than 13% of emails are viewed on a phone (and I’m seeing in excess of 30% for some of my clients!). How am I supposed to scan my phone with my phone? I can’t. And for the rest of the readers checking email on their computers, what’s easier – pulling out your phone, opening your QR scanning app, scanning the code and viewing the content on your phone screen OR simply clicking the link in your email and pulling it up on the screen you’re already viewing? Hmm…
Second, too many marketers aren’t providing any real value with their codes. Nissan and Home Depot are getting it right, providing videos, buying guides, product details and financial information that a user would often have to spend time searching and going to multiple locations to find. Far too many others are missing the boat. QR codes that simply link to your website or Facebook page (I’m looking at you Taco Mac) in most cases don’t provide any value to the customer. If I’m already in your store, eating at your restaurant or reading your ad, I probably already have a good idea of what you do. Take the extra step and provide me with a reason to make a purchase, sign up for more information from you or add another beer to my Taco Mac Brewniversity list. Sure, links to your website and Facebook may increase your traffic and fans – but what does it do for the consumer? If they can’t tell you, odds are they won’t be back – or will think twice before scanning the next code they come across.
I want to see QR codes succeed – they have the potential to benefit consumers and marketers alike. So I propose a QRevolution where marketers motivated by strategy, not novelty, implement QR codes into their marketing tactics. Novel idea, right?