Customer Insight is the magazine created by our in-house team of customer research experts. Bringing together features, case studies and the latest thinking on customer experience, it is a must read for anyone interested in using customer insight to improve business performance.

QR codes

By TLF Research

A QR code is a quick response code. They can be used by just about any phone with an onboard camera. A QR code, once scanned, can take a phone user to a web page, a video, or even place a call. Companies are using QR codes in all sorts of places to provide a link to a wide range of information. They can be included in ads, in a magazine for example or even on a billboard, on packaging, in shop or restaurant windows, on price lists, literature, flyers or menus, even on a vehicle. They can quickly link the customer to anything you want – today’s special offers or discounts, detailed product information, advice (e.g. recipes for a food ingredient, food matching ideas on a bottle of wine), contact details, jobs etc. 

If you haven’t done it before, here’s a quick guide. As well as a camera you need an app on your phone that can scan the code and interact with it. If you have an Android Phone, go to the Google Apps Market and search for “Barcode Scanner”.  This will let you scan normal bar codes as well as QR codes. An alternative app is “Google Goggles”.  If you’re an iPhone or iPad owner, the best app is “QuickMark”, which costs $1.99 and is a fully featured scanner but a perfectly adequate free alternative is “scanQR”.

Do people use QR codes?
US firm Chadwick Martin Bailey conducted an online survey of nearly 1,500 US adults at the end of October 2011. The sample was representative of the US population in terms of age, gender and income and they also conducted 20 one-on-one interviews which were used to add more detailed qualitative information. A UK survey was done by EConsultancy, also in October and with 1,500 respondents. 

Awareness
There were some very interesting findings on awareness. Only 21 percent of American respondents knew the term “Quick Response code” or “QR code” (when asked if they had heard of the term). However, whilst 81% of American adults recognize them by sight only 31% of Brits did and only 10% could correctly identify it as a QR Code (with a further 12% saying barcode). At 19%, more Brits said they have scanned a QR code compared with only 11% in the US. Not surprisingly, under 35s were much more likely to have done it (32%) than over 55s (only 7%). 70% of those who have done it found it easy to do.

Reasons for usage
In the UK, receiving discounts, coupons, or free items is the main motivation for people who scan QR codes (42%), so communicating the right offer both before and after scanning will be important for marketers. Around a quarter did so to gain information or simply out of curiosity. Importantly most who have scanned other than out of curiosity, have made a purchase as a result. 

Companies must be aware of the situations where consumers will be engaging through QR codes and design their communications accordingly. This means different codes and landing pages for different situations. For example, 35% scanned a QR code from a magazine or newspaper followed by 18% who scanned product packaging. Sometimes it will be necessary to make reasonable assumptions about consumers’ motivations in specific circumstances. For example, if scanning an ad in a magazine, it’s a reasonable assumption that the consumer is a potential new customer, so an incentive to purchase would be relevant. On packaging, higher value products will often be scanned in store to do price comparisons, so incentives will be particularly important. By contrast, on a lower cost product, e.g. a food item, it’s more likely that the customer is seeking information, so nutritional details or recipes could be relevant here.

Successful uses of QR codes
There have been some very creative and valuable uses of QR codes, such as their use on Radisson Edwardian's menus. If a customer scans a code, they can see a video of the dish being prepared by the chef. This is obviously a great way to enhance the the customer experience, and also to help them decide what to eat. It’s not quite co-creation, but it would feel a bit like that as a customer, and would certainly be a great word-of-mouth stimulator.

Tesco in Korea created a virtual store for smartphone users in the underground (which, unlike London is wi-fi enabled). While waiting for the train, mobile users could use their phone's QR code reader to scan and browse products and even to buy them. The result was that more than 10,000 people scanned the QR codes, new customer registrations rose by 76%, and online sales were up by 130%.

US retail chain Best Buy has added a QR code reader to its mobile apps, which is a good way to ensure that customers don't have to actively download a third party reader before interacting with ads. 

Wilkinson Sword used QF codes in Tesco that linked to the mobile landing page below. It offered entry to a competition and videos of its products in action. It also features a URL and an SMS option for those without QR code reader apps. 

Throughout this magazine we have added QR codes to the adverts and to many of the articles, so if you haven’t used them before, why not download one of those free apps and scan a few now?

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