Whether used for window shopping, checking product ratings or searching for sales, smartphones are society’s latest shopping companion. They allow on-the-go consumers to stay plugged into the retail world wherever they are. As people become adept with taps and swipes, push notifications and Siri queries, retail marketers should be as comfortable in a mobile setting as their customers.
However, breaking into the mobile landscape can be daunting, especially considering the high price of custom mobile apps and the limited targeting that does little to redeem them.
QR (Quick Response) codes are a mobile marketing and consumer engagement technology that’s both easy to deploy and cost-efficient. These square, two-dimensional codes, when scanned with a smartphone, bridge the gap between physical and online storefronts and link potential customers to compelling content. The codes also can be as attractive as the product, with branded, customized designs. They link to landing pages that are as dynamic as a web site, yet behave like a custom mobile app and provide an online experience that’s as fun as being in an actual store.
QR codes also are a handy vehicle for circulating coupons and deals that can be redeemed in-store or online ― providing this incentive will encourage customers to scan and explore the mobile experience you’ve created for them.
The first step to implementing a QR code is to decide where to feature it: on an in-store poster or web site homepage, or delivered to customers via direct mail or in the Sunday paper? Ultimately, its location should make it easy for customers to see and scan.
Another early-stage consideration is the lifespan of the campaign, and thus the code. Perhaps the store has some seasonal merchandise to get off the shelves, or needs to draw customers in for a weekend clearance event. Or maybe the marketing team is trying to build awareness and a strong social media community with long-term customer engagement. In all these cases, the code’s shelf life is very important because the content linked must always be relevant to the customers who scan it.
The next step is to decide what kind of content customers will explore when they scan the code. Do you want to send them to your Facebook or Twitter page? Some services offer custom landing pages that feature navigation menus so customers easily can choose where they would like to go: Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Eventbrite, the store’s homepage, and more. The options for content and destinations virtually are limitless, and can be tailored to the customer base.
Create the Code
Once the content strategy has been ironed out, you’re ready to get cracking on your code. There are hundreds of sites that help create codes, both free and paid. The paid services usually address extra functionalities, such as better options for customization.
Designer codes are a great way to pique the customer interest and may be tailored to the brand or store aesthetics, or even promotional and seasonal themes. The point is to make the code attractive and intriguing to customers so that they’ll want to scan it.
If you’re going through the trouble of creating a code, you want as many people as possible to scan it and explore its content. One way to encourage scans is to make sure customers can’t miss QR codes in the store. Place them near registers, store windows and entryways, and next to relevant or featured products.
Additionally, incorporating them into other marketing materials such as like mailings, FSIs and online advertisements is an easy way to tie the mobile capabilities of the QR code to the existing marketing efforts, and encourage customers to get into the store or online to take advantage of deals.
Track the Code
Like many new marketing technologies, it takes time to find out what is and is not working for each particular campaign. Knowing how many people are scanning, how often they scan, and how long they’re interacting with the code’s content can yield some interesting customer behavior information. Depending on the content featured in the code, Facebook fan growth, YouTube video views, and RSVPs to an in-store event are good indications of whether or not a code is working. Full-service QR platform vendors often will provide analytics for your code, but you can track responses using Google Analytics if you assign your code a specific URL.
Whatever promotion or merchandise you’re looking to market, QR codes are cheap, easy to implement and leave a lasting impression on customers ― one that they take with them wherever they go (literally!).
Hamilton Chan is Founder and CEO of Paperlinks, a company providing a host of tools for creating QR code, SMS, NFC marketing and m-Commerce campaigns. Paperlinks also provides options for designer QR codes and their iPhone and Android apps. Chan was featured on MSNBC-TV’s “Your Business: American Business,” in a segment entitled “Cracking the Code.” In it, Chan sheds light on the features and benefits of QR codes. The segment may be accessed here.Chan’s latest venture, PayDragon, is a new mobile purchasing app that allows consumers to buy an item, with just a tap, while blocks away from a store and have it ready for pickup by the time they arrive. With PayDragon’s one-tap shopping feature, users can skip the checkout lines and browse, select and pay for items, all within a streamlined mobile interface.