opinion

QR Codes: What are they?

Joe D

Well, I wanted to know about QR codes and how we can utilize them in marketing, so I went to expert Steven Levine, President of Mission Mobile, and had a chat.
Personally, I just joined the revolution of smartphone users in 2011, so I’m a little behind in all things mobile, but working toward catching up and spreading the word. 

Steven told me that QR (Quick Response) codes are the small barcode squares making their way into an increasing number of print ads, billboards, business cards, and other media.  Users scan a QR code with their mobile device and are automatically redirected to a website (preferably, a mobile site), a video, a social media page, and so on.  He told me QR codes were invented by Denso Wave of Japan and were originally used in the automobile industry.  Once the advertising industry realized the codes could be used as marketing tools, their popularity took off.  Currently, QR codes are free of any license fees and Denso Wave has chosen not to exercise their patent rights to the product.

According to a study by comScore, 14 million mobile users scanned a QR code or barcode in June 2011.  Some 58% of these users scanned a QR code or barcode from their home, while 39% scanned from retail stores.  Interesting also, 53% of the 14 million users were men between the ages of 18 and 34.

As the statistics show, QR codes are perfect for advertising materials and packaging as they provide users with a more interactive experience. Users often feel that they will gain access to more exclusive information if they follow the code.

Ha, I haven’t done this yet, but to scan a QR code, you need to download a QR code reader for your smartphone. These readers are available free of charge from any app store.

Steven went on to say there are other types of codes used in the market today, the most popular being QR codes and Microsoft tags.  However, QR codes seem to be the more popular option, especially true in the United States, where QR codes have gained a lot of traction with companies like Hustler, TitanMen and Digital Playground that have started incorporating them into their packaging and advertising. 

He did caution us on the small print:  Although some websites will create QR codes for free, there are multiple benefits to choosing a paid provider for the service.  First, he said, you never know what kind of quality you are getting with a free service.  A QR code from a free service provider may not scan as easily as one from a paid provider.

The second issue he cited deals with the management of multiple codes.  If you are running a number of campaigns at once, you may find it difficult to manage and track them without a platform that organizes everything.  It can also be difficult for you to share information with employees and coworkers in different locations.  Some providers also give you the ability to change the URL.  IMPORTANT.  This comes in handy because it allows you to print codes, put them in your ads and marketing materials, and then specify the URL you want the code to lead to.  This minimizes the problem of the code leading to a wrong URL, as has happened to a number of companies.  You really need to exercise care in choosing the professional company you partner with to exploit all the marketing opportunities available through QR code advertising, and many existing solutions do not truly leverage the interactivity of mobile messaging as a way for product brands to interact with their target market.  Mission Mobile's messaging software enables companies to create a more unique mobile experience which includes interactive replies that maximize consumer interaction with your brand.

Finally, Steven continued, by choosing a paid provider for your QR code, you receive reporting and analytics tools that will allow you to track your campaigns and see how effective your QR code advertising really is.  These tools can also help you to determine if you are getting a better response in one advertising medium over another. 

Here is Steven’s list of real-world applications of QR codes:

  • Print ads:  Use QR codes in print ads to direct the reader to your website (or preferably, your mobile site).
  • Magazines:  Use QR codes to let readers access exclusive info on the website or mobile site.
  • Social media:  QR codes make it easy for users to connect with your social media pages.
  • Downloading:  QR codes make it quick and easy for users to download your apps.
  • Exclusive material:  Direct readers to exclusive videos using QR codes.
  • Existing advertising:  Use QR codes to help leverage your existing advertising and make it interactive.
  • Videos:  Use QR codes to connect customers to video tutorials.
  • Tradeshows:  Add an interactive element to your booth and tradeshow materials with QR codes.
  • Business cards:  Use QR codes on your business cards to display your contact information.

 QR codes can:

  • Deliver an interactive marketing experience to your mobile audience.
  • Measure the effectiveness of various media.
  • Improve integration of offline and online campaign components.
  • Keep you at the forefront of the technology advertising curve.

Steven’s Mission Mobile QR Code Marketing Tips

What is the goal of your QR code?

-          To provide product information.

-          To provide easy access to a mobile app.

-          To generate leads.

-          To create a call-to-action response.

-          To retain customers.

-          To drive traffic.

How will you add value for the user?

-          Save them time.

-          Reduce costs.

-          Enhance the user experience.

-          Deliver mobile-friendly content.

What kind of user assistance will you offer?

-          How-to steps.

-          Links for downloading a reader app.

-          Provide an SMS text messaging alternative for users without the scanner.

How will you ensure that your QR code works?

-          Test to ensure codes are scannable.

-          Examine code size and placement across different readers and handsets.

Again, Steven Levine is President of http://www.MissionMobile.net, and I want to thank him for providing us some basic information on the QR code phenomenon. Mission Mobile is a mobile marketing company that specializes in text messaging, QR codes and mobile Web development and he'd like to hear all your questions and ideas. He can be reached at Steve at missionmobile dot net.

Talk to me about some mobile billing options I’ve recently come across as well – utilizing interactive marketing techniques to generate more revenue from your own mobile traffic.

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