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The Strategy Room

5 Ways to Use QR Codes that Get Your Audience to Use Them, Too

By: Emily Wenstrom

QR codes, those black and white squares that seem to be appearing everywhere these days, are without a doubt among the most talked-about tools in communications. But the audiences marketers and PR professionals are trying to reach are not always as in love with them as we are.

In a Dec. 2011 article, “Why QR codes aren’t catching on,” CNN reported that most people have no idea how to use a QR code. The report included data from an Archrival survey of 500 college students, which found that about 80 percent of students owning smartphones could not successfully scan a QR code.

And that’s the tech savvy generation.

A few months earlier, in March, another CNN headline read, “Marketers embracing QR codes, for better or for worse.” Just this February, Mashable told us “Why QR Codes Won’t Last.”

So what gives? Mashable put it best: “In today’s increasingly mobile world, instant gratification is the norm, and taking the extra step of finding a QR code scanner on your mobile device no longer makes sense.”

If QR codes are going to survive, communications professionals are going to have to find ways to clearly offer exceptional value to those willing to take the time to scan them and read the content provided once the site loads. Here are five ways to do just that:

1. Enrich In-Person Experiences

QR codes can be a great way to provide additional dimension to an in-person experience. Several museums have successfully implemented QR code programs with audiences who are already primed to learn. At The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the live exhibits are designed for kids, but parents can participate in the experience by scanning QR codes to read more about what each exhibit is teaching their children.

2. Provide Real-Time Updates

When you are waiting at a bus stop, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how far away the next bus is? Several municipal public transportation authorities, including Austin’s Capital Metro, update their signs with QR codes to give up-to-the minute information for their riders.

3. Offer Convenience

Global supermarket company Tesco makes it easier for young professionals in Korea to buy their products by setting up virtual stores in metro stations. Shoppers browse life-like images of store products and scan QR codes to add them to their online shopping cart. Tesco then pulls the order and delivers it to shoppers’ homes the same day.

4.  Entice and Reward

When restaurant Temaki Sushi was building its first London location, it decorated its construction zone with fish with QR code eyes. Those who took the time to scan the codes were rewarded with a discount. Through the QR code, they made an investment in new customers and gave them an extra reason to stop in as soon as the restaurant opened.

5. Leverage New Real Estate 

Like, say, on the top of a cupcake. The appropriately named bakery Clever Cupcakes in Montreal put a sweet spin on promotions by topping off free samples of their treats with QR codes. Just hope samplers can resist sinking their teeth into their treats long enough to scan them!

QR codes are off to a slow start but don’t write them off just yet. They can be incorporated into communications efforts successfully as demonstrated by the cases above. Want to test the waters?  Get creative. Have fun. Offer something irresistible. The upside of technology is that great content has a way of getting around no matter what. Reward your early adapters, and others will soon follow.

What do you think about QR codes? Take our quick LinkedIn poll!




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