The attack of the QR Codes

Erika Jones
Erika Jones

Many of us have seen them, but if you haven’t, keep looking as they are showing up everywhere!

            I am talking about QR Codes or Quick Response Codes. Despite being created in 1994, QR Codes have not been popular in America, mainly because our cell phones lacked the capability to read them. It wasn’t until the influx of smart phones in recent years that popularity is on the rise. I have ready many articles from people in the advertising industry who don’t think the QR Code is a valuable tool. I am actually a fan of them. When utilized properly, they are a powerful tool for your business.

            Recently, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful meal with wine and great experience at a restaurant downtown. After my husband pays the check, we get our receipt, and I notice a QR Code printed on the receipt. Naturally, I scan it. Sadly, it takes me to the restaurant’s website. My first thought is this: What am I supposed to do on your website,  I am already sitting in your restaurant?  Am I supposed to look at the menu I just ordered from, or perhaps read someone else’s review about the wine I just drank? 

            This is a case of a good marketing idea gone bad. The business owner was probably so excited to have a QR Code that they wanted somewhere to put it, but didn’t think about the whole experience. Instead of taking me to the restaurant’s website, perhaps the code could have directed me to a page on thewebsite where I can leave a review of the great experience I just had. Or maybe the code could be used to send me a text offering me a free glass of wine with dinner if I come back in the next 30 days, creating an opportunity for another great experience!  

            Another misuse of QR Codes occurs when consumers scan them but are taken to a non-mobile website. Seeing a website designed for a computer screen on a small cell screen is extremely difficult. And this experience is made worse as your website’s click functions won’t work on my phone either. If your QR Code is going to take customers to your website, make sure you have a mobile app for it.

            The QR Code is a great tool in your toolbox of marketing.  Your business’s use of it should be well thought, meaning you should consider the destination of the QR Code more than the placement.  The placement of the QR Code on the restaurant receipt was brilliant, but the destination was dull.  When our clients ask us for a QR Code, we talk at length about the destination and where we will place it. Is it going in print?  Where will it be placed? Who are they targeting to read it? What should they experience when they scan it?  And most of all, what is going to make them scan it?  After that discussion we design the code to fit the medium. After the campaign has launched we track it.  If you can’t track it, you’ll never know if it is working.

            There are quite a few free QR Code Generators out there and business owners love to use them.  However, there are some fundamental problems with the free generators. First, they lack the ability to be tracked. You should be able to track your code and how it is performing. This will help you determine the placement of the code. Second, they are usually only good for a certain number of scans. You can generate a code for free, but it can only be scanned 300 times. So after 300 scans the code is worthless. Third, and most important, they are not dynamic. All the codes we generate through a software program allow our clients to be dynamic with the destination.  For example, when I scan the code on the restaurant receipt it gives me the text for a free glass of wine, when I come back in to enjoy my offer, the same code takes me to their website to leave a review. Same code, different destinations—no need for a reprint.  This makes the code and the experience for the consumer dynamic.  

            The QR Code isn’t going anywhere. In fact, they are becoming more and more prevalent. This is great for business owners and consumers alike. Remember they are a valuable tool in your tool box of marketing, and the entire process, experience and placement should be intelligently thought out to give customers a dynamic experience. It will keep them scanning for more!