Why you should consider using QR codes in your marketing (2020)

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There is a real reason to use QR codes in marketing in 2020 and 2021. The technology has improved quite a bit in the last decade. Most phones nowadays can just be pointed at a QR code in camera mode and the QR code gets read. Back in the day you had to download a special app.

I tried using some QR codes in my marketing before. The year: 2010.

In one project we put a code on the back of somebody’s T-shirt and it said: scan me for a good deal.

That felt pretty clever but ultimately hardly anybody scanned the shirt – though it got attention.

Buy now: How I‘m selling my 1-star review shirt of 2020 on Amazon

QR codes were just not that user-friendly then.

I used them on a few more projects but – given the low – or at least perceived low user adoption I put them aside and thought they were a waste of time.

QR codes in the wild

Seven years later …

I ran across a code while visiting Germany in November 2017. I took a picture. And I’ll admit I took the picture to Instagram about how this must be an old project or something like that.

But then something interesting happened and as I was taking the picture and even before I clicked the button to take the picture the camera quickly offered me the link to click to go to the website.

Here’s how that looked on the screen:

One of the biggest problems I always found with the code was that you had to download an additional app to scan them. Of course, some phones don’t have enough storage as is so some people-including myself-wouldn’t prioritize an app like that.

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And then of course to get a reinforcement walking through a northern borough in Düsseldorf I saw another QR code on the window of a store:

Again, super simple: swipe left on the iPhone to open the camera, scan the code or not even scan it but hold the camera towards the code and it offers you the option to open the website.

That’s a huge improvement, but I still don’t know how common QR code consumer use would be. For example, will people who are windowshopping when the store is closed scan the code and buy from the website? I assume you can buy on the site? Fingers crossed that it works on mobile.

It’s a use case and depending how hard it is to produce those codes and print them maybe it’s OK to try for a little while longer.

QR codes to drive reviews

Local SEO expert Gregg Gifford mentioned that business should consider using QR in marketing to drive reviews. Set up a landing page that has all the different review sites listed and point the QR code at that site. Once people arrive they can pick the network where they want to leave a review.

It has been a while for QR codes however. But maybe they’re not dead. Usually, most marketing channels and tactics declared dead are not completely dead anyways.

What are you thinking? Have you seen any innovative projects using QR codes? Drop me a note here.

Worth trying

If our audience is heavily reliant on mobile phones-and which audiences aren’t?-it might be worth trying. It also might be worth trying when we want people and when it makes sense for them to move from off-line to online. QR codes in marketing are especially useful to companies that have a physical location or that have physical marketing materials like printed brochures. I probably still would not recommend putting a QR code on a billboard.

Try next: How businesses can maximize direct mail

It’s easy to focus on digital-only channels. It is a good idea to remember how to make it easy for people to move from off-line to online. That’s why QR codes in marketing are a tactic worth considering again in 2020 in 2021. Another option is the use of augmented reality.

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An innovative project for its time was when we used augmented reality with a print piece at United Way in the early 2010:

So certainly there will be more use cases for off-line to online integration beyond asking people to type in links in the future.