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QR Codes Are Back (and Here's Why You Should Care)

by Uriel Peled  |  
November 8, 2013

QR codes are enjoying resurging levels of popularity.

Until recently, however, QR codes were one of the most untapped marketing resources available. (And I say this with a great deal of respect for the efforts that advertisers poured into their QR code campaigns.) In all my years working in the industry, I was particularly struck by the alleged "low conversion" rates of traditional QR codes.

We’ve since been able to identify reasons why QR codes offered less than optimal results in campaigns. Besides the dullness of black and white computer-generated squares, neither passersby nor marketing gurus truly understood the true marketing potential of these innovations. That was then.

Nowadays, we’re making great strides towards a much better understanding of QR codes and how to unleash their true potential.

Stats Point to Surging Use of QR Codes

While marketing pundits have been a little lukewarm regarding QR codes in days gone by, times are changing. The number of smartphone users sits in the region of 2 billion. This not only serves as a massive incentive for marketing departments to find innovative means of attracting customers, it also makes mobile marketing that much more attractive.

QR codes are among the most widely used marketing mechanisms across Asia. Singapore, Japan, and South Korea are particularly well-known for widespread QR code usage. For example, when Tesco expanded into South Korea, it was up against major competition. It was simply unfeasible to open up hundreds of land-based stores to try and go head to head against the market leader---so Tesco (Home Plus) used posters and billboards with QR codes to boost its message. It worked as South Koreans took to on-the-go shopping with effortless ease.

In the West, QR code usage is enjoying a much warmer reception among patrons. As the CMO of a high-tech company, I have watched this industry evolve dramatically in recent times. One of the things that struck me was how best to make QR codes attractive. We all know that attractive sells, so why not these codes more attractive? At first glance, it seems improbable that a computer-generated square can be attractive, but even this perception is changing. The use of visually appealing QR codes is fast gaining traction. QR codes are now being incorporated into marketing messages in such a way that causes users to find them too enticing to resist. The goal is to seamlessly juxtapose QR codes into messages, images, and marketing strategies.

Proven methods of properly used QR codes for various products and services include the following.

  • The American ketchup brand Heinz placed QR codes onto its bottles in US restaurants. Patrons were offered prizes for answering trivia questions. About one million customers subsequently scanned the bottles.

  • L’Oreal enjoyed a 7% spike in overall sales when it advertised inside NYC taxicabs. The QR codes were linked to videos with Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent beauty products. During the five-day campaign, the app was downloaded on average 80% more.

  • Inventiveness doesn’t get much better than Emart, a South Korean retailer. It created what is known as a shadow QR code that was only visible for one hour between 12 noon and 1 p.m.. Some 12,000 coupons were sold and traffic was up 58% from the prior month.

  • A well-known German toy store, built a model of QR codes from LEGO blocks to increase traffic to its online store. As a result, 49% of visitors came to the online store via the QR code campaign.

With Google Glass, QR codes have plenty of promise. When a customer sources a product from an ad, he/she will immediately use the QR code, go online, and pay. Google Glass doesn’t make use of a keyboard, so QR codes are going to factor heavily into their functionality. Glass will essentially be reinventing marketing strategies and placing specific advertisements before your eyes---wherever you go. Google Glass is designed to instantly process any and all QR codes that the device camera detects. As soon as Glass recognizes the command from the QR code, it executes it. There are many benefits to this, including greater personalization and convenience. QR codes will feature prominently with Glass and many enticing options are likely to be showcased. Things like augmented reality ads and glittering banner-style ads across buildings are just a few of the marvels available with QR codes and Glass.

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Uriel Peled is the co-founder of Israel-based startup Visualead, an Israeli startup company that transforms QR codes into visual QR codes using its patent-pending technology.

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  • by Jason Lombard Fri Nov 8, 2013 via blog

    My hope is that optical text recognition will eventually supplant the QR-code for marketing response. While I've used them heavily in some client campaigns (it's not a one-size fits all solution), I dislike them from a visual standpoint and find that most people still aren't very sure what they should do with them. As mobile continues to gain market share, there's no doubt in my mind that some sort of quick response lever is necessary for marketers. I just hope that we're able to move beyond the QR code at some point.

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