QR Codes: The Time is Now for Quick Response

In the late 90’s, a feisty startup called Digital Convergence Corporation rolled into market, delivering free barcode scanners to subscribers of ForbesWired and Parade. These scanners, called CueCats, were kitty-shaped (no, really – shaped like a cat – so, CueCat – get it?) devices that plugged into a computer. With a simple swipe, magazine readers had the “luxury” of accessing more advertising or editorial content … online. Each swipe was tracked, relaying gender, email address and ZIP code to advertisers without permission. And swipers couldn’t opt-out.

CueCat barcode scanner ready to pounce on a Cue code

Despite being a forerunner to many smart phone apps in use today, the CueCat reader was a commercial failure, due to a thoughtless privacy policy that scared many away, and a technology that was trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist.  I mean, who reads Wired or Parade while sitting at a computer desk?  And who wants to be forever targeted with online and direct mail ads about Jim Beam after an accidental swipe?  Wrong message, wrong place, wrong time.

Louis Vuitton Styled Custom QR Code

Flash forward a decade, and meet the quirky second cousin of CueCat: the QR (Quick Response) code.  QR codes are popping up everywhere—on bus stops, magazines and in-store displays.  They are digital links to all kinds of information, both real-world (maps, boarding passes, movie tickets) and online (Facebook profiles, ready-to-send email messages, vCards). Today’s shopper welcomes the QR code, because it links them to the right kind of relevant information at the right place, at the right time. Brand and direct response marketers welcome QR codes because it helps them more efficiently manage their cross-channel consumers and measure ROI.  As consumers increasingly access brands through their mobile devices, advertisers will face mounting pressure to measure results of specific campaigns—something that QR codes deliver.

Here at RichRelevance, we’re helping brand advertisers deliver the right message at the right time through our enRICH for brands offering, which delivers innovative rich media in the form of videos, tutorials and coupons in ad units on top retailer sites where shoppers are making purchase decisions.  There may be a time in the near future where QR codes will be embedded in these ad units, making “call to immediate action” a reality.

Broadway Grill's display of their Facebook QR code

Along with Gap, BestBuy and Calvin Klein, smaller businesses can use QR codes, too.  One of Seattle’s favorite eateries, the Broadway Grill, has a QR code in a picture frame at the host stand.  Customers can easily “friend” Broadway Grill on Facebook to get special offers and invites.

Make no mistake: QR codes are here to stay, so if you don’t have a QR code strategy, 2011 is the time to put one together.

Here are 7 ways to deliver your marketing message the QR way—in the right place at the right time:

  1. Branding: Add QR codes to packaging, tags.  Help shoppers easily “like” you on Facebook, Tweet purchases to friends, subscribe to SMS announcements for sales.
  2. Advertisements: Harness curiosity. Be the first in your market with a QR billboard (or the first greasy spoon with a digital edge)
  3. Shipping Materials:  Get more stars. Solicit ratings and reviews by adding QR codes to packing slips that link to feedback forms.
  4. Product Displays: Link to ratings and reviews, recommendations, bonus video, additional product features, wishlists, registries.
  5. Coupons: 45% of shoppers compare prices online while shopping in-store. Deliver a special coupon straight to their smart phone to scan at checkout.
  6. Promotions: Use QR codes with a gaming aspect to capture leads.  People watching Fringe scanned special codes and were given a top-secret message.
  7. Finally, and most important … (scan the QR code below to read the best tip yet!)

Scan this QR code with your smart phone.

Psst! Don’t have a QR code reader yet?  Go to http://get.beetagg.com on your phone to download one now.

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This post was written by Brad Cerenzia

ABOUT Brad Cerenzia
Brad Cerenzia is an e-commerce industry veteran with more than 15 years' experience as an innovator, designer and engineer. His portfolio includes hands-on work with companies such as Amazon.com, where for 5 years he led an engineering group that launched dozens of new stores and features (Video Games, Wireless, Toys R Us, Target.com, Home & Garden, WebStore, branded sweepstakes) with a focus on impeccable customer experience.
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1 Comment
  • Reply

    The challenge with QR codes is that the reach isn’t there to justify the spend. I’m sure the response to this is “QR codes are free/very inexpensive”, which to a certain point, yes, they are free. BUT, finding a reliable QR code platform (analytics, building a mobile-friendly site, account management, etc.) is not free. Why use QR codes when you can use SMS (or at the very least, QR + SMS), which has a much higher adoption rate?

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