QR codes still have the ability to divide opinion, and finding stats on successful trial is difficult.
But judging by the number we see on billboards and in magazines, marketers are convinced that consumers want to use the technology.
NeoMedia has been involved in the mobile barcode industry since the mid 1990s, and its NeoReader app is installed on over 20m devices worldwide.
To find out more about how marketers can make best use of QR codes, I spoke to CEO Laura Marriott.
In a recent interview, eBay's European director of mobile commerce Olivier Ropars told us that he thought QR codes were a stopgap until a more user-friendly technology comes along. Do you think QR codes have a long-term future?
Years ago when the first SMS marketing campaign was launched there were people who said that it didn’t have a long-term future, but here we are now and SMS is still integral to mobile.
I think that QR codes are relatively early in their cycle, but it’s a great cost effective means to have dialogue with consumers and
make marketing more interactive.
And consumers are adopting en masse and we are seeing a significant number of scans and downloads, so there’s a huge response rate compared to any other channel.
Image recognition is in its infancy and has limited adoption so far, so while there are new technologies emerging I think there’s room for multiple mobile media elements, as different campaigns require different implementations.
Do you see augmented reality becoming a more common technology than QR codes?
There are still some problems with AR as there are too many different readers on the market and none of them is universal. Right now it’s very niche and works for specific campaigns, but it’s not yet a mainstream media technology.
Are there any campaigns or uses that are better suited to using QR codes?
I think that one of the best uses is to drive loyalty schemes and redemption offers. They are also great for linking to social media, and for giving access to exclusive offers and discounts, or simply for making media interactive.
QR codes can also allow brands to measure ad campaigns across numerous publications, which is a great insight.
Do you think retailers should be making better use of QR codes in-store?
Yes. A great example of that is Kodak who uses it on packaging to replace warranty cards and on shelves in-store to do compatibility requirements for accessories.
They can be used to substantially reduce packaging requirements such as manuals, warranties or product details, and can also drive more detailed information through the use of video.
What consumer information can advertisers and retailers get when a customer scans a QR code?
On a basic level you are able to tell what device they are using, where they were if they have the location function enabled on their phone and the time of day.
Then if they are using our QR reader you can see gender, income, age and a few others. There are 32 different data element in total that advertisers can access.
How is that information obtained?
When consumers sign up they are asked optional questions that is stored as metadata and metrics.
So using our QR code reader gives access to more enhanced information, and that’s one of the benefits of working with a company that owns both the app itself and the back-end operating system.
We see quite a lot of QR codes in places where they can’t be scanned, such as on the tube. Are there any instances when QR codes shouldn’t be used?
I think the funniest ones are in the subway; it’s quite hilarious, as they simply can’t be scanned down there. Or in the magazine on an airplane as nobody takes those magazines home with them.
And I would say you have less success when it’s popped on an ad with no call-to-action or without linking to a mobile optimised site. We also used to see quite a lot of broken links, but that’s not such an issue anymore.
Marketers need to ensure that the value of the scan is communicated to the consumer, so they know what they have to do and what to expect when they scan the QR code.
Ideally it should go to rich media and a mobile site to ensure a high quality consumer experience.
Do you see any difference between the way QR codes have been adopted in the UK compared to the US?
US consumers seem to adopt more quickly and earlier, but UK is quickly catching up. We are seeing lot more brands running properly managed QR programmes and will likely see more at the Olympics - it’s nice that UK is embracing it and very quickly.
I think the adoption has been helped by global brands in automotive and travel, as that brings more exposure to the technology.
How should brands benchmark their campaign? What constitutes a successful QR campaign?
Everyone’s adoption objectives are slightly different. One campaign we did in the US was at a trade show where the codes were shown on booths and other posters.
The aim was to increase sign ups to the company’s mailing list, and from that one event their mailing list increased by 40%.
It was a sports brand and huge sports event, so it’s perhaps not all that surprising, but it was still a good example of how QR codes can be used to engage with consumers.
How can brands encourage consumer adoption?
I think we can be doing more around education, so next to QR codes on advertisements it needs to say why consumers need to scan it.
You need some kind of call-to-action or something in the publication to let people know how to use a QR code. Also having a scanner pre-installed on handsets is key to encouraging adoption.