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Are QR codes still a thing?

hands-1167612_1920In 2010 you may have downloaded a QR code reader to your smart phone and determinedly read codes on mailers, coffee shop flyers, and any place you could find one. But was 2010 also the last time you bothered to scan one?

Still, QR codes are more prevalent than ever, even appearing on fast food wrappers, offering direct links to nutritional guides.   The question remains, is anyone actually using them?

Developed in 1994, QR codes began as specialty barcodes for Japanese car manufacturers.  By the early 2010’s they filtered into marketing and everyday life as an easy way to link from the real world to online – long urls, videos, even interactive games.

Today, marketers love to use QR codes, and the vast majority rank QR codes as “very effective” or “effective.” Yet a 2013 study found that only 21% of American smartphone users have EVER scanned a QR code.  So, what does this mean?  Not many people use QR codes, but there is a reason marketers love them – it is really effective for those who do use them, and the majority of marketers feel that the level of engagement is worth the effort.

The majority of those who regularly use QR codes are either tech-obsessed or young adults in the 22-35 age range. Our advice – if neither of these groups are in your primary target audience, don’t ever bother.  If they are, consider trying some simple A/B testing with your next direct mail piece – one piece with a url to a landing page, and one piece with a QR code linking to a separate landing page, and then watch your analytics to see what happens!

If you do choose to experiment with QR codes, do keep some best practices in mind:

  1. Strategically place the code so the customer can easily see it, recognize it, and have no issues scanning it. (This may seem obvious, but do NOT place it on a TV ad, or even a t-shirt where it is impossible to scan)
  2. Ensure the linked content is mobile optimized as it will only be accessed via mobile devices.
  3. Link to content specifically created for and related to the in-progress marketing campaign, not a generic landing page.
  4. Provide motivation for scanning! Do not place a QR code in a vacuum.  Instead offer a reward – a coupon code, a special recipe, an exclusive video, some form of immediate gratification.
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