You’ve probably seen QR codes in marketing in many places. At your favorite fast food restaurants, on product packaging, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
They look like this:
The strange, pixelated scan images have been around for more than a decade, but in the U.S. they have largely been reduced to niche and marginalized uses, as only a small percentage of the population used them regularly. But that could be changing.
As QR codes have become more commonplace, awareness of what they are, and how to use them have been growing. More people are using QR codes today than ever before.
In fact, since the global COVID pandemic, QR Code usage has grown even more quickly.
Take a look at the ages of people who typically use QR codes.
Somewhat surprisingly, the average user age tends to skew a bit older than most would probably expect.
This increase in awareness as QR code mobile penetration has increased by 26% has made QR codes a more viable marketing strategy and as a result, we have seen them used in increasingly inventive ways.
With some creativity, you can share a lot of critical information with your audience in a swift way using QR codes.
What Are QR Codes?
QR Codes act as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. They’re a fast, easy and touch-free way to drive your audience to specific online content, primarily by using a mobile phone.
QR stands for Quick Response. The codes originated in Japan, and are used to take information from a transitory media and open it directly on a mobile device. Commonly, you might have seen QR codes in places like direct mailpieces, magazine advertising, on products, or on billboards at stores.
Scanning QR codes provides details about the business or campaign that they were related to. So for instance you might scan a QR code on a product, then be taken to a webpage for that particular product, with product spec information and marketing materials.
Prior to 2017, to use a QR Code with your mobile phone, you needed to download a special QR scanning app, and use that app to access the QR content.
Now, with both Apple and Android operating systems supporting native QR code scanning in the base camera apps, nearly everyone with a phone can instantly scan and access amazing content!
QR codes provide more than a standard barcode can. They can contain more data, including URL links, geographic coordinates, images, or text. Additionally, because QR codes can be scanned by modern cell phones and do not require the large clunky scanners, they are the perfect option for sharing information with consumers directly, as they not require a lot of effort on their part to access it.
QR Code Usage Is Growing In The 2020’s
In the 2020’s, it seems as though QR Code use is growing faster than ever before. A combination of factors seem to be driving this:
- Mass adoption of smartphones with native QR scanners
- More consumer awareness of how to use QR’s
- COVID-19 concerns driving people to look for contact free ways to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
At Postalytics, we’re seeing far more direct mail campaigns using our built in, personalized QR code tools. In fact, we’ve seen greater than 50% more direct mail volume using QR codes in each of the past 3 years.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways that companies use QR codes.
8 Ways to Use QR Codes In Marketing
There are many inventive ways that businesses can use QR codes. Primarily, you want to focus on opportunities that allow you to move prospects through the funnel and give them access to the information that they want, exactly when they want it.
Some of the more common ways that companies typically use QR codes in their marketing campaigns include:
Drive Customers to Your Website
This is the most straightforward use case for QR codes, and by far the most common way that customers use the Postalytics QR Code tools as a part of their direct mail marketing campaigns.
When the customer scans your code, they are taken directly to your website or a landing page that corresponds with the campaign. This can be a great way to move potential customers through your sales funnel and send them to a location where you can collect more information about them.
You could send them to your homepage, specific product pages, or lead data collection landing pages. The page that you send them to should be relevant to the campaign but otherwise is unrestricted.
Automatically Call Your Business
Another popular use of QR codes is to give your customers an option for direct dialing your business. For instance, you could provide a QR code on your product packaging that would connect customers directly to your support team. Or, you could send a direct mail postcard with a QR code that allows them to directly call your business and schedule an appointment.
This makes calling easy. Your customers don’t have to look up your number in Google and call, they just scan the code and then the phone number is automatically dialed for them.
Send an Email
In the same way that you can use a QR code to initiate a call, you can also use one to help customers send an email as well. When the QR code is scanned, the default email app will open on their phone, and a new message will open with a subject of your choosing.
This can be an effective and simple way to convince customers to email you. You could potentially connect customers with your sales or support team using this method, or invite them to sign up for an event.
Send a Text Message
Like sending an email, text messages also provide a simple way to connect with customers through a platform that they are accustomed to using every single day. When they scan the QR code, their text message app will be brought up on their phone, with the correct phone number automatically filled in for them.
Text messaging is so popular that many companies simply can not overlook how beneficial it could be and how important it could potentially be to a multi-channel strategy.
Download Your App
Another common use of QR codes is to connect users to your app. When the QR code is scanned, your app store will open and take you directly to the correct app page on the store, where the user can choose to download the app and go through the traditional installation process.
Commonly, companies will include QR codes on their product packaging that invites users to download their accompanying app. Another common use of the app download QR code is in direct mail campaigns, giving marketing teams new ways to connect with their prospects after the direct mail campaign comes to an end. This can be a great way to grow the channels through which you engage with your audience.
View Your Business on a Map
You could also use QR codes to open your business listing on GPS and mapping software. This can be a perfect solution for local brick-and-mortar stores to direct more traffic to their storefront. When the QR code is scanned, the mapping or GPS software will automatically open and search for the correct location. The user can then choose to ask the app to generate directions for them.
Share Social Media Pages
If you’re looking to grow your presence on social media and connect with customers through new channels, sharing your social media pages through QR codes can be an easy way to do so. You could connect with a specific platform — such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter — or direct users to a landing page where they could potentially follow you on the platform of their choosing.
Typically, if the user has the app for the social media platform on their mobile device, the QR code will trigger the app to open and open up the social media page that you are sharing. If they do not have the app installed, their internet browser will open to your page by default.
Discounts and Coupons
QR codes can also be used to connect customers directly with discounts and coupon codes in your system. In 2017, 1.7 Billion coupons were obtained via QR Codes. There are numerous ways to do this. The QR code could take them to your app, which opens up a coupon for them. Or it could apply a coupon code to their account on your website.
Delivering coupons or discounts through QR codes can be a powerful way to convince customers to take action and make a purchase.
Now let’s take a look at some real-world use case examples of using QR codes.
Real-World Examples of Inventive QR Code In Marketing Usage
The uses that we have covered in this article represent some of the more common use cases for QR codes. However, there is a lot of room for creativity in the way that you apply it and use it within your campaigns. A perfectly timed and planned QR code delivery can be a powerful tool for convincing customers to take action.
Direct Mail QR Codes Boost Response Rates
As we said, Postalytics is seeing skyrocketing usage of QR codes in our integrated direct mail automation tools. QR codes can drive the response rates higher for direct mail campaigns much higher, by eliminating friction. Some people don’t want to type in long URLs or make phone calls, QR Codes give a great way for them to respond to your mailer.
Source: Brand United
Synchrony Bank recently promoted a CD as a better way to save money with a guaranteed rate of return. Rather than providing the interest rate on the mailer, Synchrony used a QR Code to drive recipients to a page with most current interest rates. Since interest rates change regularly, this provided a better customer experience.
Ads for Apps
If you offer a mobile app, injecting QR codes into your advertisements might be something that you want to consider.
We’ve seen this strategy employed by some of the largest companies in the world including Instagram and Angry Birds. Just take a look at the example below.
Source: Neil Patel
These are both functional QR codes that can be scanned by any modern smartphone. However, they also are creatively branded. The Angry Birds QR code looks like their game, and the Instagram QR code highlights the images’ personal picture-centric focus.
This is a creative way to get your app in front of visitors and make it easy for them to take action. Both of these examples ran in several print media publications.
PayPal Uses QR Codes for Payments
PayPal took QR code usage to the next level and made it a central aspect of their full mobile strategy. Using QR codes, PayPal users can automatically initiate payments with other people or businesses on the platform. No sign-up is required, either. Payments can be made quickly and easily through the QR code.
If you offer a tech solution, consider how you could use QR codes to trigger specific functionality within your system. Is there a process that could potentially become a much more customer-friendly workflow to using specific features while on the move.
Starbucks Increases Sales with QR Codes
Starbucks is another huge brand that has harnessed the power of QR codes in their marketing. They began integrating QR codes into their print and outdoor ads, often connecting customers with discounts or promotions through the app. They also used QR codes to accept cashless mobile payments in their store, a very forward-thinking initiative when it was first introduced in 2016.
Because they serve an audience that typically skews a bit younger, the QR code initiative was successful enough for them to include QR codes in many of their promotions since their original campaign.
British Airways Uses QR Codes for Quick Airport Check-In
British Airways also used QR codes for a core business function when they installed QR codes for priority airport check-in systems. Printed directly on their tickets, flyers could scan the QR codes and skip the check-in process completely, so long as they didn’t have any bags that they needed to check. It was a very effective way for the company to reduce check-in times for all of their customers.
Diesel Authenticates Clothes with QR Codes
In the apparel industry, and particularly with name brand clothes, knock-offs are a serious problem. This is especially true among shoppers at flea markets and aftermarket retail stores. You never know when you are getting something authentic or if it is a convincing knockoff.
To combat this customer frustration, Diesel decided to start using QR codes that would allow their customers to verify the authenticity of the clothes that they purchase. In scanning the QR code, the Diesel app will tell you if the product that you are purchasing is authentic, along with other product information.
IKEA Increases Checkout Speed with QR Codes
In an effort to improve customer experiences and speed up the checkout process, IKEA launched a mobile checkout initiative that used QR codes to identify the products that the shopper was purchasing. They simply scan the QR codes on the products that they are buying. The price is totaled, and users can pay for their items and generate a receipt directly in the app.
QR Codes Are a Creative Solution to Many Customer Problems
QR codes are a solution that could potentially help your customers in many different ways. With some ingenuity, you can find creative ways to use QR codes that not only inspire your customers to take action but improve their experience in the process as well.
Postalytics enables you to use QR codes easily on your direct mail marketing campaigns, driving higher conversion rates.