Wednesday, September 7, 2011

QR Codes, Business Information Right Here, Right Now

They've been spotted on movie posters, business cards and on printed business and product collateral. Similar to Facebook URLs and websites, mobile barcodes are regularly popping up in advertisements and all manner of places where online content is desired. The widespread use of barcodes is to help satisfy consumer demand for immediate access to relevant information. No longer do consumers have to wait to get home to find specific information about products they see at retail stores. Recently, comScore, a company that measures digital marketing, found Quick Response (QR) code usage has been on the rise. In the month of June, about 14 million Americans scanned QR barcodes, which comes to a bit over 6 percent of all mobile users in the U.S.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a 2-D barcode that can be scanned by a smart phone's camera. Once the code is scanned, it could direct users to a website, offer a coupon from a local retailer, show a movie trailer or video and just about anything else that can be linked online. Manufacturers with a lot of product information can now produce proliferate web pages in complete harmony with their product tags. QR barcodes were invented in Japan and have been actively used there for more than a decade. They are making their way throughout North America, with many furniture stores, garden centers, hardware retailers, and other home / garden outlets catching on to the craze. The barcodes look like this:
If you already have downloaded one of the available QR code reader apps to your smart phone, you can use the phone to scan the above code. In doing so, you will be directed to our website’s section regarding social media as an example. Now, imagine the barcode was printed on a tag attached to a new dining table at a home design retail store or to a plant container at a local garden center. Consumers could use their smart phones to scan the QR code, linking them directly to specific online information about the product, its various applications or uses, and related how-to or design insights – all provided to them in an instant from the brand behind the product. Now, that’s Point-of-Purchase strategy like we have never seen it!

How are mobile bar codes applied to marketing?

Mobile barcodes can be useful to businesses by connecting people with each other and to brand-related content. Because QR codes are still relatively new to the U.S., most current ads or printed collateral that contain these codes still have to explain how they work, and the steps the viewer needs to take to access the additional information. The codes can be added to print ads, posters, invites, store front displays, T-shirts, and even to the merchandise itself. The linked information can be specific to a brand or product, containing information such as product details, how-to insights, event details, contest information, customer feedback forms, and so on.

In one retail example, Pottery Barn added a QR code to its fall catalog on a page that featured the Manhattan Leather Armchair. When scanned, it directed consumers to a video that showed the history of the chair and how the designers were inspired by chairs they found in Parisian flea markets. More recently, Home Depot introduced new, interactive plant tags. Buyers can scan a QR code and get in-depth information about the plant, such as how much sun it requires, before they decide to take it home. Mobile barcodes could also be used to build communities on social media channels. For example, some businesses have generated codes that “like” the company’s Facebook page.

As with any successful campaign, a good strategy is key. QR barcodes should provide viewers with a brand experience that is dynamic, exclusive and interactive. The codes should also be easy for consumers to locate and quickly scan. And, certainly, attaining the services of an informed consultant or firm helps create a synergistic approach with all facets of a marketing plan. Let us know, what are your thoughts and questions about QR codes? Do you think they have staying power? Be sure to add your comments below.

Staying up-to-date with the latest digital innovations and trends is important to us, as it helps us better serve our clients. At ECPR we specialize in PR 2.0—as we define it—the convergence of traditional public relations and modern social media networks. To learn more about our social media services, be sure to click here.

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