Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When NOT To Use a QR Code

With all of the excitement about Quick Response codes among print people these days ("See, we're still relevant in the Internet age!"), it's easy to forget that they aren't right for every occasion.

A colleague in the magazine industry relates this recent incident: A customer submitted a print ad with a QR code, which my friend subjected to the Paranoid Production Manager's 3 Tests for QR Codes. (FYI, all good production managers are paranoid.):

1) Is a URL shown with the QR Code? That might not be necessary in countries like Japan where using QR codes is second nature. But in less advanced countries with more primitive phone systems and many people who don't know what to do with two-dimensional barcodes -- like, say, the United States -- not including a Web address will hurt response. Check.

2) Is the QR code readable? There are some real horror stories about promotions containing QR codes that weren't readable. Check.

3) Does the QR code take you to a web page that is relevant to the ad? Just because the code is readable doesn't mean it directs readers to the correct web page. Designer have been known to make mistakes. Check.

But then my colleague spotted a problem: The promotion was for the sale of a product that has to be shipped to the buyer, which means the buyer has to enter credit-card or PayPal data, email address, and mailing address. That's way more typing than most people want to do on the typical smartphone. The client agreed that it should remove the QR code from the ad.

Moral: Don't use QR codes if the landing page is not optimal for mobile devices.

Other articles about managing print projects include:

1 comment:

Mike Porter said...

There are all kinds of ways QR codes are being poorly implemented in marketing mail. Sending unsuspecting prospects to landing pages that are not optimized for mobile devices or simply encoding the URL of the advertiser’s home page are probably the most common errors.

Here’s another one, from a customer acquisition sales letter I received. Happily, the landing page designated by the QR code was designed for mobile viewing. The interface was simple, featured readable text, and the page featured large navigation buttons. But the mobile site was set up for existing customers to administer their accounts via their mobile devices. There was absolutely nothing useful on the site for non-customers, nor did it refer to the mail piece. The inclusion of the QR code on marketing material directed only to prospects was senseless.

Mobile barcodes may be new for some prospects. Marketers who insist on using them to initiate unsatisfactory experiences run the risk of tainting future attempts to fully exploit the possibilities the technology can offer. If my own personal and business mail is any indication, there aren’t many marketers that are using personalized QR codes that can be used to pre-fill forms or link to existing accounts. This extra effort can streamline a transaction – something that might have been helpful in the example cited in the article. Other applications include utilizing more variable content in landing pages so that customers don’t have to wade through irrelevant material to find something useful to them, or using smart forms to gather small bits of additional information that can be used to craft future communications.

QR codes can be the gateway into deeper and more profitable relationships with customers and prospects. The technology exists, but the practices aren’t there yet.