A lot has been said about the almost ubiquitous QR (“Quick Response)” code – some of it complimentary, some of it not so much. (Learn more about what QR codes are here »)
On the complimentary side, QR codes are still trendy, visual, scan-able, convenient and cool.
On the not-so-much side, QR codes are ugly, gobble precious real estate in graphic designs, require a mobile app to scan them, often lead to boring web pages that weren’t worth the effort to scan, and sometimes simply don’t work.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, QR codes, like many things, can be absolutely marvelous if used properly. And the rate of smartphone users scanning them has steadily increased, making it all the more imperative that we learn how to take advantage of them. According to a recent comScore report,
• Over 20% of smartphone users scanned a QR code, with the majority scanning for product information.
• Over 55% of Americans are now smartphone users. That means nearly 35 million people scanned QR codes in the last quarter of 2011.
• 20% of scans were done in a retail store.
• 57% of scans were done in the home, versus on the go.
• One third of scans were in response to a coupon or offer.
• One quarter of scans were to get event information.
Clearly, the QR code has established itself as a standard and commonly understood way for mobile users to access content and marketing promotions.
In this post we’ll give you some QR code best practices for getting great results from using QR codes, as well as the common mistakes to avoid.
Common Mistakes with using QR codes.
• QR code for QR code’s sake – when QR codes burst on the scene a few years ago, marketers started slapping them on everything in an effort to appear cutting edge. Problem was, most of these QR codes linked to – a home page. Ugh. Why would people want to go the trouble of scanning a code just to view a home page on their mobile phone?
• Web pages not optimized for mobile – Imagine scanning a code and being taken to some company’s home page, which is still in large monitor format. Imagine the joy of trying to read this on your 3.5-inch iPhone screen (or just slightly larger Android phone screen). Another ugh.
• Too small to scan – if a QR code is less than an inch square, many cell phone cameras and apps may have trouble scanning them, leading the mobile user – nowhere. Ugh again.
• Nowhere else to go – if the QR code doesn’t work for some reason, or, the user decides he/she would rather view the code on a PC monitor, it sure would be nice if there were a web URL listed as an alternative. Many marketers forget this simple point.
• No instructions – there are still some smartphone users who may not know how to scan a QR code yet, much less why they might want to. Some marketers simply forget to have some simple instructions about why to scan the code, and where to download an app to scan the code. Yes, including these instructions can clutter up a design. But adoption rate will certainly increase by taking this simple step.
• QR codes in ridiculous places – Ever tried to scan a QR code on a billboard, on the freeway, from your car, while driving? Believe it or not, some marketers think this is a brilliant place to put a QR code. Until the 20-car pile up, that is. Or how about putting a QR code on a web page? Hmm…why would I scan the code on a page when I can just click on a link instead? Oops, no link is listed. Ugh.
The best way to use QR codes.
• Use them to make the user’s life easier – Say you’re running a promotion, and your users will learn about it on the go, so being able to access the promotion from a mobile phone would be ideal. That’s the perfect application for a QR code. Make it obvious where the QR code will take the user. And provide an awesome benefit for scanning the code. Any way you can save users from having to type any text to gain access to this awesome benefit makes users’ lives easier. They’ll appreciate you for it.
• Provide an awesome benefit for scanning the code – scanning the code should provide an immediate, specific benefit to the user. After all, it still takes effort to launch the scanning app and scan the code. Use the code to provide a short cut to accessing specific information, an instant savings coupon, limited time special offer, price and product information (if scanning a product package in a retail store), maps and directions to get to a desired place, an event schedule, an educational or entertaining video, link to a home virtual tour on a real estate sign, contest entry, etc. Can you think of other great specific, immediate benefits you could provide?
• Test scan your QR codes before releasing them into the wild – try scanning the codes with a variety of different cell phones to ensure they work, and make sure they take the viewer to the right web page!
• Optimize linked content for mobile viewing and interaction – this one is self-explanatory. You’ll want to work with a web developer with specific experience building mobile pages. For more information on designing web pages for mobile viewing, please see this article »
• Make it easy once they land – make it as simple as possible to enter that contest, get that coupon, view that video, etc. The fewer clicks (or taps actually) and keystrokes required the better. Make the mobile web page super clean and uncluttered so it’s very easy to see what to do and how to do it.
• Track scanning analytics – there are QR code generator tools, which also provide analytics as the codes are scanned. Some are free, and others are reasonably priced. ROI tracking should be part of every marketing program.
Take your QR codes to the next level.
QR codes, used properly, provide a more convenient way for users to gain a benefit from you. The easier you make it for a user to interact with you, the more likely they’ll do it. From this standpoint, QR codes offer huge potential for marketers. On the other hand, when used improperly, QR codes actually impede customer interaction, which can in turn reduce engagement and erode trust in your brand.
Follow the guidance in this post. Spend just a little more time learning about best practices with an easy Internet article search. Then implement QR codes to make things easier for your customers – and reap the benefits.
Here’s a good article to start your best practices survey. GO »
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.