QR codes can be incredibly effective when used well, but many businesses haphazardly publish QR codes without really thinking through their strategy. While I love seeing QR codes incorporated into creative designs, what really determines their effectiveness are three factors:
- Where the consumers physically are when they access the code
- What value they get from the resulting link at that moment
- What immediate action they take next
This part is key: at that moment.
QR codes are instant links, and should serve an instant purpose. Just tracking how many people scan your code doesn’t tell you much. What happens next? Do they carry out the action you’re targeting with your landing page?
An article published last year by Entrepreneur Magazine discusses three ways businesses are using QR codes, but they don’t really address the effectiveness of each one.
One company tracks the number of visitors who come to their website via QR codes at trade shows, but do they track whether they’re converting those visitors to leads?
In another example, a gardening business handed out bumper stickers to their Facebook fans. The bumper stickers had a QR code linking to a YouTube video. While bumper stickers may be a good way to get a lot of local visibility, it’s probably not the best place for a QR code. People see bumper stickers while they’re driving. Are they expected to not only scan the code, but watch a video, while they are driving a car?!
Remember that your QR code is a form of mobile marketing. You want your QR code to provide instant value, right then and there, for the person who scans it.
As a consumer, I appreciate QR codes in stores when I’m considering a large purchase. Last year when I was shopping for a dryer, Best Buy had a QR code on each model that lead straight to their website where I could find all the specifications as well as customer reviews. Great! I could make a decision without writing down the model numbers then going back home to do more research.
On the other hand, I really wished there had been QR codes when I was shopping a few days ago for a new TV. We were at Walmart and, while they may have the best prices, they aren’t known for much else. The tags on each TV had no specs outside of the price and model number. I actually hunted for a QR code to bring the information up on my phone. I was hopeful when I found one on a box, but it turned out to be just the stand. I ended up typing the model numbers into Google. I got the specs I was looking for, but I also found other stores that carried the same TVs, as well as other search results such as problems people had had with particular models. Good for my husband and me in the end. Not so good for Walmart.
One of my first experiences with a really effective QR code was, surprisingly enough, through the State of California. Despite all the complaints of bloated, ineffective government, some people are doing things right.
The California Dept. of Motor Vehicles has an appointment system to minimize the wait time at their offices, but people aren’t always quick to adopt new systems. Many people still show up and take a number, then sit down for an hour or more to wait. I went once first thing in the morning, thinking it would be quicker that way. When I got to the counter and found out they were already estimating a 45-minute wait, they handed me a card and suggested I schedule an appointment to come back. The card was the size of a standard business card, but had a QR code to the appointment scheduling page on their website, as well as a brief ‘step 1, 2, 3’ explanation of the process. I scanned it, found out I could schedule an appointment for the next day (I had thought I would need to schedule much further in advance), and was on my way. When I came back for at my appointment time, I was in and out in 10 minutes.
Another QR code I’ve encountered that I found particularly effective was at Linda’s Pizzeria, a local pizza place. They were in the running for, “The Best of Sacramento.” Customers typically wait awhile for these homemade deep-dish pizzas. There was a table tent on the table asking people to vote for them, with a QR code that went straight to the voting page.
I was just sitting there waiting with my family, so I read whatever was in front of me. We’re regular customers and we love their pizza, so I was happy to vote for them. And they made it so easy – almost fun, even.
The other thing that made this work was that the voting system was mobile-friendly and very simple – no logging in, no creating an account – just click once and vote. Done.
QR codes can be very effective, as long as their use is well thought-out. If you’re planning a QR campaign, think about your goal and make sure you carefully plan out your strategy. Be sure to avoid the most common pitfalls, and answer the four questions below to create an effective campaign.
Avoid these common QR code mistakes:
- Link goes to a site or page that is not optimized for mobile viewing.
- Landing page content is not relevant to viewer’s immediate location or circumstance.
- Consumers aren’t given enough information about what to expect if they scan the code.
- Landing page asks viewer for something before giving them value (i.e. sign up, or buy now).
Four questions to ask yourself when planning your QR campaign:
- Where will your customers physically be when they scan the code?
- What immediate action do you want them to take next?
- How will the landing page you send them to give them value and lead them to your desired action?
- How will you track your results?
Taking the time to think through these four questions will help you create a effective QR code campaign. Or, you may determine that a QR code is not be the best solution for the goal you have in mind. When you do launch your campaign, you’ll be able to monitor its success because you’ll have a specific conversion metric and a way to track it.
Have you used QR codes? Have they been effective?
Please share your experiences in the comments either about your own success or failure, or a personal interaction with someone else’s QR code. I’d love to hear from you!