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QR codes are still yet to prove their value. There have been several high profile trials of late; but have they been successful and what do you benchmark success against?

Mobile web consultant Terence Eden has pulled together some stats from a TfL poster campaign that links users to a real-time bus schedule.

These figures show that since going live in November, the QR codes have been scanned 4,500 times at a rate of roughly 70 times per day.

It should be said that the data, which was sourced using Google's URL shortener, is not entirely rigorous. TfL has not confirmed how many posters the codes are included on, but the stats provide an interesting look at how Londoners are reacting to the growing number of QR codes appearing on adverts around the capital.

Eden believes this is an impressive number of scans, though he says the only true way companies can gauge the success of QR codes is by benchmarking against their existing response rate.

A-B testing is the best method. You run an advert on one day with a phone number, then the next day use a QR code. Comparing the results of the two ads is the only way you can realistically gauge the success."

The ability to pinpoint the exact number of people clicking on a specific QR code is one of the technology's key strengths, as it is difficult to prove that the number of people calling a telephone line or going to a homepage is directly related to a normal poster campaign.

Interestingly the stats from the TfL posters also reveal which devices are being used to scan the codes – iPhone comes out on top with 45% of scans, followed by Android at 28% and Blackberry with 22%.

While Eden says the relative success of QR code campaigns have to be viewed within the context of a brand's wider marketing activity, it is interesting to compare the statistics against other QR experiments.

A campaign in the Metro which linked back to the newspaper's homepage achieved 17,000 scans in two and a half months, while a Boots campaign achieved 11,000 scans from people who wanted to find out more about a new skin cream.

In terms of sheer numbers, the TfL campaign would appear to be less successful than these examples, but the 4,500 clicks is huge when compared to the anecdotal evidence from a John Lewis virtual shop window which routed users to its website using QR codes.

PR agency Leapfrogg spent five hours observing shoppers outside the window over a five day period and only two people stopped to scan a code.

The John Lewis experiment ticked all the QR best practice boxes - busy location, good call-to-action and linked to a mobile optimised site - but on the face of it the results were far from impressive.

Up to now brands haven't been forthcoming with the results from QR code adverts, so it isn't possible to properly gauge how the public is taking to QR codes and whether the popularity is growing over time.

Eden believes that it is only a matter of time before consumers become comfortable using QR codes on a daily basis, and advertisers are certainly banking on that considering the number of codes that appear on posters and in newspaper ads.

However while actual data remains scarce the jury is still out.

David Moth

Published 9 January, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

I find this case study interesting and it throws up a few questions:

1. Where were the posters? i.e. were they in an area where wi-fi and 3g is not available? This obviously affects the value of the 4500 scans.

2. What was the call to action? I like QR codes and they have been about for 4-5 years now but there are a number of examples where advertisers have used them with no call to action telling consumers what to do or what they will receive.

For me I think the jury is out on whether QR codes actually deliver any real ROI or whether advertisers are seduced by number of scans.

over 4 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

Just noticed case study talks about clicks so posters must have been outside underground stations surely?

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

For this example Terence said the poster he had seen was above ground.

I agree that the jury is out - from personal experience I have had more failures when trying to use QR codes than successes, and it's amazing that people still link QR codes to sites that aren't mobile optimised.

over 4 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

@David - it mentions bus schedule so must have been at bust stops. You are right there is no thought on the customer experience or journey they seem to be a quirky afterthought.

over 4 years ago

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Adam Fellowes, Head of User Experience at Digirati

For a direct comparison I'd like to know how many people 'looked' at the timetable on the bus stop during this period along the lines of the john lewis observations.

TFL are trying a few things around Kings Cross right now, the stops have had the digital screens that showed estimated arrival times taken down and seemingly replaced with NFC hardware incorporated into the bus stop shell.

Lets face it buses arrive when they arrive, usually in pairs so the actual 'timetable' or 'estimate'' is not that useful in its current form.

over 4 years ago

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Matt Dailey

Interesting to see some 3rd party data on this subject but I don't agree that the measurement of success should necessarily be against other response rates as QR codes are still not widely understood by the public and you still need to have downloaded a reader to get the experience.

I would have thought a bus schedule one at a bus stop would do well as it is very functional and relevant in the moment but how many bus passengers do they estimate would have been through those stops where the ad was?

The John Lewis example mentioned was obviously going to fail as "busy location" is a bit of misnomer as best practice. A busy location with a captive audience or high dwell time would be ideal. If its just busy then it is going to have to work hard to capture attention.

From a response point of view, QR codes are a low cost addition to existing print media channels, to try and make the advertising in these channels more engaging.

over 4 years ago

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Ian McKee

I'm not sure 4,500 clicks constitutes success, whatever the details about placement etc are. A tweet from someone with a reasonable following could generate more than that.

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

2.1 million passengers a week, 4.5k clicks = Fail.

over 4 years ago

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Stu

Agree with Ian, although it'd have to be a VERY reasonable following - I didn't see the numbers and immediately think roaring success. 70 times per day in relation to the number of passengers that must pass every day...

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

There are 2.1 million passengers per day on average. (some doing more than one journey per day).

over 4 years ago

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Steven Garrett, Head of Cross-Sector Sales at ABC

@Andrew - is that on the London buses?

over 4 years ago

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Len

Lothian Buses have the best QR code because it does something. At the bus stop scan the code and get real time bus data.

QR codes work when they do something more than just sending you to a website. 'Oh look I'm standing outside in the cold, what do I really want to do... I know look at a website'.

Now if there was a sign saying 'Offerers Here!' with a big arrow pointing to the QR code, which then took you to a site showing the 10 best offers and where they are in store. Kerching.

Even better have a QR in each department showing the best offers.

over 4 years ago

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Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

No that was for the Underground! Total weekday bus ridership is 6 million!

over 4 years ago

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Terence Eden

Hi,

I'm Terence Eden, the chap interviewed for this piece.

To clear up a few points....

I saw this poster at Waterloo Station where there was 3G signal. I'm not sure how many posters there are - certainly isn't one on my regular bus stop!

As I said in my original piece, it would be best if the code linked to a specific live bus information screen.

The call to action is, IMO, too small and too faint - although it does point out what will happen when you scan it.

Terence

over 4 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

I think most smartphone users (the only people who can scan codes) are much more likely to download a GPS enabled bus app such as NextBuses or Catch That Bus than muck about scanning QR codes.... and they work on all stops and don't require you to stick QR codes up everywhere. Not saying QR doesn't have a place.... it's just not as big a place as QR people would like to think it is.

over 4 years ago

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Alex Beishon, Marketing Assistant at Shipton & Co

I agree with Douglas, when looking at who is using these QR codes, we are looking at technically able people who (With the Iphone for example) have specifically installed an app to be able to read and utilise codes.

Although Steven has mentioned that QR codes have been around for 4-5 years, due to prevalence I feel that as a marketing tool QR is in its infancy, and needs developing so a larger part of your 2.1 million commuters understand it as a link to offers/information and not as a 'weird black and white blocky square'.

Either way it seems that when investing in this marketing tool, you need to be very very specific with your target market if you want to get high response rates. I.E Iphone Magazines etc.

over 4 years ago

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