Love ‘em or hate ‘em, QR codes are back, as their ability to store more data (up to 100 times) in a much smaller space than a barcode system, became priceless during the no-contact years of the COVID-19 pandemic. But even with the QR code’s impressive revival, many B2B companies continue to struggle with effective use of the squiggly squares. Strategies exist for when and how to use QR codes well and here we’re highlighting six smart QR code practices. Understanding them—and their opposites— can help you successfully shape your own company’s QR code use.
It’s About User Experience
Invented in Japan in 1994 by a development team at Denso Wave, which manufactures and sells automatic data capture equipment, the QR code was originally designed to track vehicles and vehicle parts during manufacturing. For those old enough to remember the first non-manufacturing uses of QR codes, the memory of clunky and disappointing early results (even with those new smartphones) left us with questionable customer experiences and a lingering bad feel for their application. And that’s the key—user experience—to keep front and center when you plan why, when and how to use QR codes.
The Dos of QR Codes
Do include a clear call-to-action
Always specify where a QR code will take users if they scan. If you’re using a QR code to enroll prospects in an event, such as a webinar (great use of a QR code!), make it clear where the code is taking them and why. Use an effective and clear CTA prompt, such as “scan to learn more”, “scan to see our featured product”, or “scan to watch an installation video.”
Making users guess where a QR code will take them feels like a trap—or at minimum like a waste of time. Much as you may be reluctant to scan a restaurant’s QR code unless it’s clear that’s the path to the menu. And most people don’t bother to try when they don’t know what a QR code does. Tell users what to anticipate.
Do use a QR code for one clear purpose and don’t add unnecessary items to your QR code’s landing page
Only implement the action you’re encouraging in the QR code. If your QR code’s CTA is “Download PDF” or “scan to enroll in our webinar,” then lead users to a sign-up sheet or a PDF document. Nothing extra. When you’re planning to use a QR code, ask yourself, “What’s the Quality Reason” to use a code now?” Get it? QR. Using that as a baseline will help you stay focused on the code’s purpose within the customer experience.
This approach not only keeps the user experience brief and less of a time waste, but it also keeps your scanners focused and reduces the chances of gathering too much data, which can be messy for you come evaluation time.
Do optimize your landing page for mobile.
There’s a reason you don’t see people hoisting laptops and tablets (rarely) to scan QR codes.
According to Statista, in 2021, “75.8 million smartphone users in the United States scanned a QR code on their mobile devices, up by 15.3 percent compared to 2020. Usage of mobile QR code scanners is projected to experience constant growth, reaching approximately 99.5 million users in the U.S. by 2025.” The same Statista survey found 45% of people had used their smartphone to access promotional offers and deeper information.
Do measure results.
If you must justify the use of a QR code for marketing, that says it all. Measure, measure, measure. You need to know if your QR code marketing effort is a success—or a failure. You won’t know how to attribute it if you don’t track its progress.
If you know your QR code’s performance rate, you can make changes, such as to placement, design or the call-to-action tone or language. Or, if the rate is particularly poor, you need to just plan differently for the next time. QR codes must drive customers or prospects to your digital properties. If they aren’t doing that, you need to know and figure out why. The trick here is that conversion metrics will tell you how well your QR code performs, but they won’t tell you how to fix it if there’s a problem. A/B testing can help, or a focus group can also provide feedback.
Do design and place well.
Follow visual accessibility guidelines for color contrast and size your QR code appropriately. How far away will users be when they scan? It will need to be larger if it’s scanned from a distance. If you use a QR code in a direct mail piece, business card, or postcard they’ll be different than those that will appear on screens. Also, place QR codes where they can be seen, scanned properly and appreciated. If you took the time to create them, you (hopefully) had a Quality Reason. Don’t try to hide them away.
QR code experts also advise you to generate QR codes in a dynamic code because a dynamic QR code does not store the information and only contains a short URL. A static code embeds information in the code, which results in greater pixelation and makes it tough to scan successfully. And, of course, make sure your QR code is a high-quality image. If it’s blurry, you should worry. Remember, user experience is key.
Do test and re-test your QR code.
This seems straightforward. It may work the first time, but it needs to work (hopefully) 100s of times. Test it and test it again from different angles. We’ve all been there when technology fails. Avoid it when you can. A faulty QR code will crash your credibility.
We’re squeezing an extra “Do” here, if relevant to your business or company:
Do provide content in customers’ language of choice.
When you learn how to create QR codes, one of the things rarely mentioned is their ability to direct users to content in their preferred language, according to the settings on their smartphone or tablet.
Multilingual QR codes may be exactly where you and your company want to reach, given that nearly 70 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. Think of whom will access your QR code, your purpose for the code and what action you want to be taken. Then determine if creating content in more than one language (yes, it’s labor-intensive to do) will contribute to a valuable customer experience that results in brand or company loyalty and association.d
The Don’ts of QR Codes
This list is the flip of the Dos, so use it as a reminder of Not Best Practices. In a previous ER Marketing blog, our co-founder, Renae Krause, analyzed QR code usage in eight building-product ads. She highlighted some of the frequently found Don’ts for QR code use, including:
- QR code “didn’t give a compelling reason to scan the code and sends the user to the company’s normal website – accomplishing the same thing as the website URL listed at the bottom.” Oops. An ineffective use of a QR code.
- Company “simply added a QR code at the bottom of the ad without a specific purpose to it.” Nope. Not a good practice.
- Company “cleverly made the QR code look like part of the overall visual, but missed on sending people to a mobile site.” Mobile, mobile, mobile.
- Company “made its QR code compelling by adding a good call to action – “…for immediate information on the company”’ – but missed the follow through by simply taking users to its normal website.
Another don’t to add to the list is don’t ever direct users to sloppy or dull content. Your QR code must take users to someplace that holds value. Don’t just use the technology because it’s hot right now and you think it’s a bandwagon to be on. Provide the best customer experience to your QR code users so they associate seamless use and valuable content with your company and your brand.
More questions about the effectiveness of QR codes now? Call or email me.