There's plenty of room to innovate with QR codes.
For the uninitiated, a quick response barcode or QR code is a square barcode that can communicate information often used to direct you to a website. While originally invented in the mid-90s for inventory tracking and cataloguing, in recent years business has embraced this technology and the public now faces a flood of QR codes on business cards, advertisements, billboards and the like – most of which are completely ineffective.
Provided you are in the 50 percent of the New Zealand population that carries a smartphone, you can scan QR codes with a free QR reader app. Once scanned, a QR code will normally direct you to a website's default homepage. Then – if you are like most consumers and are not greeted with something interesting or relevant – you will promptly close the page and carry on with life.
There are, however, much more effective ways to use a QR code...
Helping your customers to find relevant information
QR codes are a great way to direct consumers to relevant extra information. For example, when a customer scans a QR code on the back of a wine label they should be directed to the section of the vineyard's website that explains more about that particular wine, with a link to order more.
Retailers can use QR codes on products to direct customers to review sites or demo videos on YouTube – just as marketers who promote a product on a unique value proposition, such as being green or the product being produced locally, can use QR codes to link to webpages that demonstrate these benefits.
Measuring marketing ROI
Consider this: you are about to run a marketing campaign with the goal of directing traffic to your business website. You print a billboard, place an advert in the paper, and send direct mail to potential customers. The campaign is a success and the traffic to your website increases. But what you don't know is which part of the campaign generated the most traffic. Therefore, if you wished to repeat the campaign, how would you make the best use of your marketing budget?
A better approach would be to use different QR codes that link to different web addresses in each part of the campaign and then use analytics software such as Google Analytics to compare which medium is providing the best value for your marketing dollar.
Getting into your customer's address book
Instead of placing a QR code on your business card that directs to your homepage, why not link it to a downloadable address book contact file (.VCF file) that includes all of your contact information? Once downloaded, it will normally populate a new contact in the scanner's address book.
If your business allows customers to purchase your product in both in-store and online environments, create a 'shop online now' QR code and place it right next to your opening hours. This way, any potential customers arriving at your business after hours will at least have the opportunity to purchase from you.
Keeping paperwork up to date
If you need your customers to be able to access information that changes regularly, using a QR code that links to a specific webpage will ensure that your customer sees only the most current information. All future changes can be applied to just the webpage with no need to reprint out of date documents.
Real time information
Lastly, QR codes can allow customers to access real time information. For example, at a live event scanning a QR code on the back of a ticket could direct the customer to live event updates. Or scanning a QR code on a bus stop could advise the scanner on the next expected arrival.
The final word
If you are using a QR code to direct a customer to your company's general homepage and your web address is short and easy to spell, why are you doing it? QR codes are a powerful tool, but let's be honest, they aren't exactly handsome. So think hard and use the technology to create something that is truly valuable to your customers.
Ben Johnston is an award-winning graphic designer with a specialist knowledge of pre-press and the printing industry. Before he founded London Studio in 2012 he worked in a senior role at New Zealand's most highly awarded pre-press company followed by a long stint freelancing for one of London's top five design agencies.