Written by Jeremy Gustafson, Vice President Client Development, KSC Kreate
Thursday, 10 November 2011 09:15
According to comScore’s recent study of mobile quick response (QR) code scanning, 14 million Americans scanned QR codes from their mobile phones this past June. But before you integrate QR codes into your marketing strategy, consider what your content strategy will be. This strategy should be top priority, and this doesn’t just mean offering “other items you might like” or “newly reduced sale items.” Because the customer already has been convinced to scan the QR code, you shouldn’t try to continue to sell them – you should give them something that allows them to fully interact with the brand experience. So how can you do this effectively? Read on for three best practices of how smart companies should use QR codes, as well as examples of who has a great content strategy and who is missing the mark.
Best Practice 1: Use your QR Code to Streamline the Shopping Experience
Title Nine: In the recent Title Nine sale catalog there is a QR Code which, when snapped by your reader, leads to a mobile experience allowing you to shop by size. Why is this a perfect use of a QR code? Well, many of us waste precious minutes scouring an online sale only to find that pickings are slim, especially in popular sizes. Title Nine’s QR code addresses and helps solve that problem for the customer, making the experience more efficient by not showing items that are not available in your size. Additionally, not only does this QR code improve the shopping experience, it also allows Title Nine to track its sales and analytics from the code, ultimately determining effectiveness and ROI as a marketing tactic.
Title Nine also is using the QR code to build its brand. Once you snap a code on page 2 of the Fall 2011 catalog, you are invited to join the conversation on its “Coach a Kid” initiative. The retailer simply is encouraging parents, and getting other parents to encourage each other, to volunteer for coaching this fall. Title Nine has completely removed the “sell” and dedicated content and catalog space to this “feel good” exercise that represents its brand ideals.
Best Practice 2: If you Plan to Use a QR Code, Go All In
Land’s End: This venerable online merchant seems to be very tentatively dipping its toes into the QR pond. My guess is consumers will return the favor and also be tentative. In the recent “Last Splash of Summer” catalog, Land’s End buries the QR code on the last page. As you’ll notice on the picture on the left, it also promises stories with the download, which used to be a big part of the brand experience. However, when I scanned the code on my Android, it simply took me to a miniature version of the very same catalog I was browsing. The promise of “stories” went unfulfilled. With as much great content as this company has, it should be a relatively small leap to add a deeper brand experience for customers as they move between channels.
In addition to leaving promises unfulfilled, Land’s End also limits the experience to iPad and iPhone users by requiring an app from the iTunes store, and requires the Microsoft QR reader rather than an open source version. So what can we learn from Land’s End? If you are going to make a QR code, go all in with multiple platforms for maximum accessibility. Also, make it easy to locate, not buried within the pages of a catalog.
Best Practice 3: Don’t Be Narcissistic
IKEA: Long an innovator in content and mediums, this retailer placed a QR tag on the back of its giant 376-page catalog that promises “an exciting message from IKEA.” When clicked, you are brought to its mobile site and a 30-second brand promo spot on the “Life Improvement Store,” as well as a link to a $2,500 gift card sweepstakes landing page.
IKEA is a big complicated store and publishes a big complicated catalog. A great one for sure, but in the case of this QR code effort, the content is about IKEA, not the shopper. The shopper has already taken the time to scan the code and is in browsing mode. Make sure they feel rewarded by the download, and let the content be a catalyst for the shopping experience. IKEA could better the experience by asking a question or two then leading shoppers to what they are seeking. Or IKEA could celebrate the vast possibilities that exist within its stores and products by giving a preview of its local store or a list of ten ways to update your kitchen for under $500, for example.
The take-home point is not about debating whether or not QR codes are a fad; It is about whether or not you are connecting with people at the “magic moment,” the time of decision, the point of sale. It is a high high-risk reward situation. If shoppers have already taken the time to scan the code, you really need to wow them. If your content bores them, or worse, frustrates them, then you probably have lost that customer. But if your content interests, excites or engages them, you have just converted a shopper into a brand advocate who is likely to share the experience with others.
It’s also worth noting that QR codes are just one way that marketers are executing precision in time, geography, context and relevance through the mobile web. The convergence of increased bandwidth and millions of tiny mobile screens in consumers’ hands has happened, and whether you use a QR code or some other technique, you need to reach them through their mobile devices. The companies that best combine the channels based on this strategy will not only keep customers, but they will win and steal competitors’ customers.
Jeremy Gustafson is Vice President, Client Development at KSC Kreate, a retail-focused content creation agency. KSC Kreate has helped retailers including NIKE, The Home Depot, Sears, Soma and Office Depot win and keep customer through innovative digital content solutions. Gustafson can be reached at
and on twitter @jerfest.