It seems like few mobile marketing tools see as much disparity between the press they get and the number of actual success stories you hear about at retail as do QR codes. Here at VMBC, we talk to retailers every week who seem frozen in the QR headlights, afraid to do anything for fear of making the wrong choice.
In an effort to help get you moving forward, the following is a simple three-step process designed to help you identify a viable QR code partner and design your own in-store program.
1. Stop Waiting For A Universal Standard
First, a quick lesson: QR codes (short for Quick Response codes) are the small black and white two-dimensional designs, composed of tiny squares and triangles. Mobile devices with cameras can “read” these codes and, depending on the phone’s capabilities, send you text or deliver you to a URL. In this way, the mobile device becomes the portal to an unlimited array of content.
However, there are myriad types of codes and readers out in the market right now. And while it would be great if a single standard, like the UPC code, suddenly emerged, it’s not going to happen any time soon. So stop waiting for it. Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s are using three different QR tech solutions (ScanLife, Microsoft Tag and Denzo, respectively). These different platforms offer unique strengths and weaknesses and there were legitimate reasons for three national retailers of this size to go in three different directions.
The advantage to you just getting started is, given this competition it’s a lot easier to get a major QR platform to work with you on creating a custom solution, as long as you know what you’re asking for.
Which brings us to our second guideline:
2. Figure Out Your Need
It’s very easy to get caught up in all the wonderful things QR codes promise. And if you approach a QR strategy based on what it can possibly do, as opposed to what you need it to do, you’ll never get anywhere. So, what do you need? What is your biggest challenge? Product education on-shelf? The ability to cross-sell throughout the store? Creating a buzz around your promotions? Building an SMS database? Improving you analytics? What sort of data do you want to deliver? Are you taking them to a WAP or a .mobi page? Are you delivering simple data, or engaging them in a larger brand story? Text or video? Or both?
It feels like a lot of questions, but it all boils down to identifying where you’re dropping the ball once you’ve brought a customer into the store. Many QR code providers can do many things. But if you don’t already have a clear set of predefined objectives for your QR effort, stop right now and make one. Figure out what’s number one on your list, put that right at the top of your brief, and it will help tremendously as you begin to compare the various providers.
And then, having accomplished this, take a step back and sprinkle in some reality:
3. Know Your Limitations
QR codes offer retailer such promise specifically because your customers are standing there, mobile device at the ready. Paradoxically, this is also what has made QR code adoption so frustrating: it just feels like no one is using them even though they should be. Assuming you’ve done a masterful job with #2, above, and you’ve identified a legitimate need QR codes can meet in your store, you now need to spend a little time standing in your customer’s shoes thinking about how to make it all really easy for them.
First, they will need to download some software to make it all work. Every QR code reader requires some sort of reader, typically an app. So, where in your store can you provide clear simple download directions? And what sort of incentives or inducements can you offer to drive download behavior? Remember, they only need to download once and you have them every time they come back into the store. As such, you can assign a hard dollar value to the act of downloading. Linking app download and SMS opt-in to a simple and instant coupon is not hard (we’d love to show you how it’s done). So, think about what will motivate your customers.
Then, you need to look hard at your POS materials and really figure out what, where and how you can introduce QR codes. In addition to understanding what you want a QR effort to accomplish, you need to understand what you can realistically support. How much space do you have on-shelf? Do you want codes that are product-specific, or will a single code throughout the store achieve your needs?
Redesigning your in-store package is a daunting task for any retailer. So, know your limitations, design a program that you can execute in a cost-effective way, and get started with something.
The bottom line is, take the time to plan for both your needs and your challenges before you start, and you can enable your customer’s mobile device to become the most effective part of your in-store salesforce.