The QR-Code Primer, Part 1: Why People Don’t Use QR Codes
A marketing friend of ours was telling a story. It was a story in two parts; the first part took place in a meeting with a TV ad sales exec.
“We recommend that our advertisers put QR codes on all their ads,” the sales exec said. “QR-code readers can pick up the codes on a big-screen TV from across a room, and it’s more convenient than listing a phone number or a web address.”
The second half of the story took place at a regional conference of non-profits. In a breakout marketing session, one of the attendees said, “I put QR codes on everything – every mailing, every poster, every communication.”
Maybe it’s anecdotal evidence, but it’s evidence nonetheless: The humble QR code is hot.
As we’ve mentioned in other blogs, QR codes are great for mailings because they supply that “bridge” between old-school advertising and the digital realm.
A direct-mail piece puts a message or offer directly into your best customers’ hands, and the QR code lets them easily be transported to the heart of your organization’s branding and merchandising – your website.
At that point you can start them down a conversion funnel or on a customer journey – and the best part is that every step in the process is documentable and generates data.
In part because of that, QR code adoption is increasing among mailers. Research from SeQuel Response shows that QR codes were used in 16% of mailings in Q3 of 2022; this represents an increase from the same period in 2021, which represented an increase from the same period in 2020.
The trends are all in favor of QR codes … but only 16% of mailings? That’s a long way from the conference attendee’s benchmark of 100%.
Why aren’t more mailings using QR codes? We can think of three reasons:
- People aren’t familiar with the technology
- Organizations haven’t built out their back end
- Marketers think it’s not right for their mailing
Let’s look at each and prescribe some remedies.
People aren’t familiar with the technology
There’s a saying at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point: “Ignorance is no excuse.” In the case of QR codes, maybe it is.
For a marketer who doesn’t do a lot of response-based TV ads or direct mail (and those marketers definitely exist), QR codes aren’t really a tool in their toolbox.
It’s not like they haven’t seen QR codes in mailings, on posters, or on TV (as a different person said at that conference, “You can’t order a beer anymore without scanning a QR code to see the menu”).
It’s just that they haven’t thought about them in the context of their business.
It’s understandable, but it’s getting to be more inexcusable. QR codes are for every marketer, every business, and every channel, and marketers need to see it that way.
If you’re in marketing and haven’t embraced the code, start now – or at least add it to your toolbox for those times you need a digital bridge with track-and-trace ability.
Organizations haven’t built out their back end
This is a much better, and more excusable, reason for not using QR codes.
If you don’t have customer journeys or conversion funnels, abundant IT resources, or a CRM that’s built to handle this kind of data, QR codes may not be for you.
While that’s a bit of a copout – we’ve seen organizations in CRM-free and journey-free spaces like medical have great, trackable success with QR-code-enhanced mailings – it’s true that getting the most out of a QR code requires some back-end work.
What does that look like? Often it starts by mapping out your customers’ journey, from how they first learn about you to how you keep them engaged post-sale.
Of particular interest is how customers move through your website, especially if your business has a D2C component. Do you try to funnel people down a purchase path, or are your calls to action less action-oriented?
If you do try to move people down a path, is that path the way you want it, or have your desired actions changed – or is it only half-built?
For those of you hesitant to build out funnels and journeys just to support a mailing, here’s a reality check: Journeys and funnels is how modern marketing works. You’re not building conversion paths because you want to send a mailing; you’re doing it because you want your business to be successful.
Get to it, in other words.
People aren’t familiar with the technology
“QR codes are great,” we’ve heard people say. “But I don’t know where to start.”
Starting is easier than ever. Do you work in Canva or Adobe Express (or any of the Adobe Design Suite)? You can generate a QR code right within these programs, as part of the process of designing a postcard or flyer.
Don’t know how to design a landing page? Top web-design programs like WordPress and Squarespace are more user-friendly than ever.
As long as you have a pulse, you are not too old or too tech-averse to build an adequate landing page. (It doesn’t have to be great art, remember; it just needs to move people along their journey.)
And, yeah: Online tutorials are everywhere.
Let this blog serve as the intro to the intro to QR codes. In our next blog we’ll look at best practices for using QR codes in mailings, and how the use them to turbocharge customer conversion.
In the meantime, let us know: How do you use QR codes in your business?
By Dan Topel 12/5/22