It seems that every print and outdoor ad these days has some form of a QR code slapped onto it.
It has gotten to the point that giant billboards feature QR codes, which are well out of reach of someone speeding by in a car. Considering that people are meant to interact with QR codes via a mobile device, this tactic makes zero sense.
There are so many misuses of QR codes that they now have a bad rap. In order to get it right, let’s take some time to really get to know the inner code, shall we?
First, let’s think of one important way QR codes are used: via mobile devices. So be sure if you are delivering a QR code, you’re being mindful of the device likely to be using it. This most often means you should have some form of a responsive, mobile experience for it; don’t just send your visitors to a desktop version of a site.
Next, let’s talk about why the QR code was made: Its original intended use was in the form of a bar code used in cars being built in Japan to identify them by their VIN. This technology meant that the code could store lots of data for a unique object in a tiny little square. In marketing, it is traditionally used for a “quick to access” URL. But what if you already have a simplified URL? Let’s say, for instance, the URL is cat-bounce.com. Would it really make sense to ask your consumers to open an external app on their phone to scan a code and have it open their default browser client? Instead, they could easily just open their browser and get to those bouncing cats more quickly.
Now that we understand that the main purpose of a QR code is to contain complex information, let’s consider where our visitors can access them. A typical scenario would find our users snapping away at a QR code to receive a one-time-only coupon for a box of Lucky Charms cereal. Or perhaps they would use the code as a verification to gain entry to the local Renaissance Fair. These are unique situations that require complex URL structures to pass along extra information to a server or database to allow users access to guarded information. These examples in particular show an excellent way of connecting online content directly to offline rewards.
Now let’s take a look at offering up digital-only rewards from QR codes instead of some tangible objects. If any QR code had text that read, “Scan now for free tickets to the Renaissance Fair,” I would predict the number of scans to rise 400 percent. Let’s also say we have created a campaign for a client that has several URLs to market different products, and these products already have an online destination with a messy URL structure but a wonderful mobile landing experience. Instead of generating a URL redirect to make it easier for a passerby to digest, we could simply offer up a QR code to get them directly to the page.
Or better yet, how about a QR code that, when scanned, tags against the actual print piece associated with it so we have a better understanding of where we should be investing our dollars for our mobile users?
Overall, a QR code should not be mistaken for a URL for hand devices that you point at things and it returns magical objects in its picture window. Rather, a QR code should be seen as a mechanism for storing complex information that enables you to verify identities, reward users with unique gifts or to gain entry to the local Renaissance Fair.