QR Codes: Connecting Marketing Channels to Enhance Customer Experiences

If it appears that everywhere you turn you find a Quick Response (QR) code, you’re right. They are nearly everywhere and for good reason. QR codes are a very effective tool for any marketer or business looking to maximize their budget by seamlessly connecting their online and offline marketing channels.

There are many good, cost-effective reasons why QR codes should be part of a print communications campaign. Here are some things to keep in mind where they can bridge the gap between print and online messaging.

The two-dimensional digital barcodes being scanned today and allowing mobile phone owners to access marketing information were originally designed and put to use in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Mobile technology now makes it possible to automatically receive content like Web page information, videos and games. QR codes also can be utilized to capture email addresses or to scan business card information and events directly into a phone’s calendar.

Market research indicates four out of five U.S. consumers own a mobile phone. Nearly 40 percent are smartphones and more than three-quarters of smartphone owners have scanned a QR code. That translates into opportunities to incorporate print in a new way, says Jill Davis, Vice President of Marketing for The MATLET Group in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

“National brand marketers, from fashion and big box stores to sports leagues and food and beverage companies, are using QR codes but the ease of creation makes them available to any business,” Davis remarked. “For example, The Wall Street Journal is using QR codes to provide direct links to video interviews with the subject or author of its articles. Creative applications give print communications added impact and enhances consumer engagement. This opens the door for printers with clients who currently use free standing inserts, print advertising in magazines or coupons as part of their marketing tool box.”

Even the U.S. Postal Service has noticed the impact. After an initial successful venture, they’re planning this summer to offer an up-front price reduction of two percent of the eligible postage for a two month period from July 1 – August 31. This promotion is being aimed at any business using a QR code on a mailed item that leads to a web page and allows the recipient to purchase a product or service using a mobile device.

Davis said QR codes are a path to making printed communications engaging and immediately relevant.

“Heinz Ketchup used one on their packaging label for a fun trivia quiz that gave consumers the opportunity to bond with the brand while sharing a meal. During the holidays, Williams Sonoma used a QR code on a cookware poster that hung in store windows and led to a video of a popular chef preparing a holiday dish. Red Lobster did something similar with its recent promotional menus.

“The suggestion is to get as creative as you can to get your message across,” continued Davis. “If you’re using a Web landing page, there should be a seamless transition between what the consumer sees in print and what they view on their mobile device. You don’t want someone being directed to a corporate web site and having to hunt for the information that led them to it in the first place.”

Davis stressed the importance of keeping the target audience in mind with any QR code effort.

“Like any other marketing tactic, QR codes may not be effective with every audience, but their low cost and simple application makes them easy to test. Technology always changes but for now, QR codes are here to stay. Using them in a well-planned, multi-channel campaign can pay huge dividends.”

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