Tech Tactics - Quick Response to QR Codes

How Distributors Can Succeed With The New High-Tech Marketing Medium

QR CodesYou need only to flip through a magazine or stroll through a department store to see that Quick Response (QR) codes are on the rise. Consumers are responding to the smartphone-activating black and white boxes, and marketers are finding increasingly effective and creative ways to incorporate them into their efforts.

According to QR code service ScanLife, the volume of QR scans has grown 300% since the start of last year and 1,000% since 2009. More than 20% of smartphone users scan a QR code each month, and that number continues to rise.

"The biggest response change we've seen recently is that the respondents to QR codes are broadening to a wider age group," says Chuck Eglinton, a technology expert and owner of

He points out that according to digital research firm comScore, currently 72% of smartphone users are 18 to 44 years old, but users in their 30s and 40s have been increasing rapidly over the past six to 12 months.

Eglinton adds that Asia, where QR-code reading apps come built into many new smartphones, offers an indication of the "full tipping point" of where the United States' use of QR codes may be heading in a few years.

"With rising numbers of smartphones being used, the opportunity for engagement is increasing," says Stephanie True Moss, who runs "Consumers are increasingly scanning QR codes, and they are increasingly sharing those fun scans on social media channels such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter."

Experts agree that there are a few steps every distributor or marketer should take to ensure they are tapping into the full power of QR codes.

QR Code Case StudySet Clear QR Goals
As with any major project or campaign, it is important to set clear goals when bringing QR codes into a marketing effort. "Define and quantify your goals for a QR campaign – how many scans and conversions are necessary to make it successful, and so on," says Dmitri Sennikov, owner of Sitomic, a mobile marketing platform that allows businesses to create professional mobile landing pages.

Whether the QR codes are meant to boost Facebook likes, expand an e-mail list or create buzz around a contest, the goals should be specific and easily measured. Like many other new technology tools, it may be tempting to use the codes or offer them to clients just to show off your cutting-edge approach, but if you look specifically at your goals, it will quickly become apparent how best to use the codes, or if you want to use them at all.

Do Not Send to a Home Page
For many business owners, the obvious place to direct a client who scans the code is the company website's home page. While you or your client may have worked hard to get your website laid out, with all the information a potential customer would need, it is not a good use of the QR code.

"There's no exclusivity or added value – people are sorry they scanned it when this happens and reluctant to scan QR codes in the future," says Sean Grace, owner of CoupSmart, which helps local businesses boost their marketing with QR codes.

He suggests directing them to a specific call to action. This could be "liking" on the company Facebook page, entry into a sweepstakes, being added to a mailing list, or being directed to a video or other type of media. The point is to give them something active and specific. "QR means Quick Response, so the customer needs to get an instant benefit from scanning," says Grace. "An offer should be exclusive to that code, and no one should see this unless they scan the code."

Tell Customers Where They're Going
Wherever you send customers, they should know where they are going before they scan. "A simple ‘learn more' is useless," says Grace. "It gives no information and usually doesn't give much more when scanned."

Instead, the area near the QR code should include a line like, "Scan to be entered into a limited-time sweepstakes," or "Scan here to see video of our products in action."

In some cases a little mystery might help drive more scanning, with a message like, "Scan to earn your free reward," but it should still be specific enough to make people want to scan. "Provide an incentive to scan and clearly explain what is going to happen after the scan," says Sennikov. "Don't leave the customer without a clear call to action – the customer has already engaged with your ad by scanning, and is willing to proceed further."

Make it Easy and Eye-Catching
Other aspects of the code should also be simple and user-friendly. For example, a URL shortener like can be used when creating the code to reduce the amount of text needed to generate it (URL shorteners also often provide statistics about when and where a scan occurred).

"Don't leave out the white space around the QR code," suggests Sennikov. "Many scanning apps require this buffer to be at least the size of three black squares."

To make sure all of this is working correctly, the code should be tested on several types of phones, including iPhone, Android and Blackberry. "It's also a good idea to include a short text URL to capture prospects who may want to visit the mobile site with their smartphones, but are unable to scan the QR code because they don't know how or don't have an app," says Eglinton.

Make it Dynamic
QR codes work well as part of an interactive marketing effort where an individual might be in direct competition with others, such as a sweepstakes or games where consumers scan the code to find if they are a winner. When used on promotional products, which the recipient will presumably hold onto for longer than a few days, a distributor may want to find ways to give the code lasting value by changing where it links to over time.

Companies such as Big Red Pin allow for marketers to connect the QR code to a URL that can be updated as often as they like. "You can change the destination over time, or have it personalized for a specific target group," says Dino Cicala, president of Big Red Pin. "If you have a promotional item on your desk, we put a QR code on there and can tell prospects to snap it daily, maybe to see a special offer, so every day they come in and engage with the promotional piece."

Put it Somewhere Surprising
Consumers have gotten comfortable with QR codes and expect to see them on posters or business cards, which makes it particularly valuable if you can put them in places someone might not expect to see them. Promotional products – used in your clients' campaigns or in your own self-promotion marketing efforts – offer practically endless choices for doing just that.

"Woven labels are not often a garment's focus, but are a necessary addition," says Marisa Brayman, director of Web and marketing for Smart Woven Labels, which has pioneered the use of woven QR codes on clothing labels that can be scanned for anything from washing instructions to special offers. "Labels have the ability to revolutionize the amount and presentation of the information given on clothing tags."

Pacific Sportswear & Emblem Company offers uZAPPit Smart Tags – military-style dog tags which feature a company logo or message on one side and the QR code on the reverse. "Not only can we whisk consumers to a website, but we also can send them to a message, text or phone number at the zap of their smartphone," says owner Rich Soergel.