In Japan, marketers have been using QR codes for years to link offline interactions with a brand, creating a measurable connection. A typical example is placing a QR code in a print ad. The user would take a picture of the ad with a mobile phone and connect to a mobile website, or they would be sent a text message or mobile application.
Many companies have tried to get into this space over the years in the U.S., but camera phones on mobile devices were just too low quality, and surfing the web on mobile devices was very uncommon. This is changing as the U.S. begins catching up with the rest of the world. Text messaging is more common, mobile web browsing has been popularized by the iPhone, and the desire to tie together online and offline behavior is growing.
So with that in mind, I have been digging into some of the companies and technologies that are primed to take advantage of this confluence of opportunity. The good news is that all of these companies have demos of their websites and you can try it out for yourself and see how it works (at least the demo).
There are two basic technical approaches that companies are taking to this problem, and two basic user experiences on top of those approaches.
Technical approaches: Image recognition or custom tagging
The image recognition approach is very broad — technically difficult and hard for consumers to adopt — only because there’s no inherent call-to-action. The basic idea is to take a picture of something with your camera phone, send it back against the database, match the image to an offering, and send something back to the user.
The custom tagging approach is less complex technically and has the benefit that if one format wins out, it can become a broad mechanism with a built-in. This is essentially the same thing that QR codes did in Japan. But despite lots of players in this space over a long period of time, nobody has really cracked the code — pardon the pun.
With the right target audience, QR Codes may have a positive impact on the success of your marketing and educational efforts.
Below are a few examples of how you might be able to utilize QR Codes.
“Virtual” coupons are a quick way to offer both online and offline discounts or rewards. Include a QR Code on your printed ad and your customers simply “scan and click” to take advantage of the offer.
Use QR Codes to drive more traffic to your website. Put a QR Code for your URL on all your marketing materials to make it easier for your mobile customer to find you online.
Make it easy for your customers and prospects to get to your shop.
Include a QR Code that links to an online map and they’ll be at your door in no time.
Personalized URLs are proven to increase response rates; make them even easier to use.
Include a QR Code pointing to a personalized URL on your direct mail piece, and your customer or prospect can simply scan and click to get to their personalized website.
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