By Jim Marous
As the use of smartphones increases, more and more marketers are leveraging QR, or quick response, codes to drive prospects and customers to promotional content or to expand a conversation. While usually a black and white square, QR codes can also be colorful and can have patterns or logos embedded in them and around them, as long as the code itself works properly.
To access, the viewer only needs to download one of several free QR code reader apps on to their smartphones (some phone are already loaded with this application). When the viewer sees a QR code on a poster, billboard, print advertisement or even on a product itself, they focus their camera on the image and the application will recognize the code and automatically open up the link to an offer, video or other unique content in the phone’s browser giving the marketer the ability to share information or offers immediately at a very low cost (marketers can generate QR codes for free).
Retailers, bankers and other marketers are increasingly taking advantage of this relatively low cost marketing tool. Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Starbucks are already in on the QR Code wave by offering coupons and membership benefits with a simple scan of the code. Airlines are using QR codes instead of tickets for check-in and consumer product companies are placing QR codes on their products to illustrates uses, nutritional information, etc. One thing’s for sure, it is only a matter of time before more marketers start seeing how effective QR codes can be and how it can save them lots of money in advertising dollars in the future.
And consumers are responding. According to a February 2011 survey of U.S. smartphone users by MGH, a Baltimore social-media marketing company, 65% of responders had remembered seeing a code with half scanning the code. Of those, 53% said they used the code to get a coupon or discount while 52% used the code to get additional information. When asked why would they be interested in using a QR code in the future, 87% mentioned the desire to get a coupon or discount while more than 60% would use the tool to access more information. Possibly due to the newness of the marketing tool, 72% said they would be more likely to remember an advertisement with a QR code.
While many QR codes are general in nature and used in mass channel marketing, these codes can also send a person to a landing page to collect additional insight before sending them to the content or a personalized QR code can be generated to deliver personalized messages on direct mail, email and other direct channels. Since the QR code is unique and tied to a specific recipient, the marketer will have the ability to see who responds to a marketing piece and when. This type of data could then be used to further refine and personalize marketing messages or for targeted follow-up campaigns.
Other benefits of this tool include:
- Anytime, Anywhere Marketing – Since any smartphone can decode and special software is not needed, your message can be made available anywhere a person carries their phone.
- Channel Shift – QR codes make it easier to move from mass media or even print based marketing to the web increasing the effectiveness of a campaign and integrating media.
- Tracking – QR codes can measure how many people are using the code and at what time. By having easily traceable analytics, firms can view results and know if their QR code campaign is successful. If using personalized QR codes, this enhances the value of the insight to the household or customer/prospect level.
- Cost Savings – Instead of continuously reprinting promotional or sales material, a QR code can be used to direct a prospect or customer to continuously updated content or offers.
Brand Enhancement: Using QR codes can enhance your brand’s image as a technologically advanced firm and can expand your mobile channel’s use. If the linked offer or content is unique, it can also set the stage for improved program results in the future and positive word of mouth.
There are some drawbacks, however. For instance, not everyone has a smartphone or is familiar with QR codes, and scanning is not always intuitive. Therefore, QR codes should usually be accompanied with text such as, “Scan with your barcode scanner on your phone.”
So how can banks leverage the interactivity and immediacy of QR codes?
Many banks are starting to use QR codes in conjunction with billboard or display advertising where space is limited and where there is a desire to provide additional information. For instance, TD Bank is using QR codes on bus shelter advertising to promote the locations of their branches with Sunday hours. Simply scan the code and the TD Bank branch locator opens on the smartphone’s browser providing the closest branch with Sunday hours.
AXA Bank got extremely innovative with their QR code enhanced marketing campaign, using 3844 tins of paint on a billboard to promote their renovation loans. When a person scanned the three dimensional code, they were taken to a mobile application that described the promotion. A video of the program development is even available on YouTube.
Last year, Colorado based FirstBank used QR codes on a series of airport signboards to support their ‘Helpfullness’ campaign. For those people on the go, they provided free downloads of classic books, Sudoku and crossword puzzles. The signboards provided clear instructions as to how to download and even provided a URL for those without a smartphone.
While QR codes are usually used in conjunction with non-electronic media, Chase has integrated a QR code to simplify the download of their new Android mobile banking app. As part of an animated marketing sequence for mobile banking on their web site, Chase provides an alternative to traditional keypunching to download the app with the QR code starting the process for the customer.
TD Bank also provides three different QR codes on their mobile banking site for customers wanting to immediately download the mobile banking app for a Blackberry, iPhone or Android.
The key to using QR codes is that the rewards one gets for scanning a code need to be valuable. This form of marketing works best in conjunction with a special offer not available elsewhere or to deliver unique content when customers or prospects are not in front of their computer. In other words, QR codes should not be used to simply take customers to more printed material.
Here are additional ways banks could leverage the power of a QR code:
- Supplement billboard, print or branch marketing with video content that more fully describes a promotion or provides a special offer.
- As a replacement or supplement for a traditional product brochure rack in a branch allowing for product offers and continuously updated product information.
- Link to bank spokesperson or other representative of influence in the bank (economic reviews, annual shareholder meetings, etc.).
- Promotional offer for mobile banking customers in branch or on website.
- ATM screen integration to provide expanded information or offer instead of traditional receipt printout.
- Supplemental information in conjunction with a direct marketing campaign (sweepstakes entry, branch locator, video program description)
- Updated rates and/or competitive grids and linkage to online financial management tools.
- A means to capture permission-based mobile phone numbers, email addresses and other customer insight.
There are more ways to use QR codes that we will see in the coming months as bank marketers try to leverage their mobile banking and mobile communications technology. Are you using QR codes currently? Do you intend to in the next several months? Let me know by leaving a comment here or on my Linkedin page (QR code provided above).
Addendum: Thanks to Nathan King and the people at Austin & Williams advertising for the great infographic below that compiles many of the industry statistics around QR codes.