Before we dive into the topic, I want to take a step back and explain what is QRCode: QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside the industry due to its fast readability and large storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. The code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of four standardized kinds (“modes”) of data (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, Kanji), or through supported extensions, virtually any kind of data.(per wikipedia).
To me, QRCode is an amazing magic wand that has the power to connect analog world to the digital world. It has the power to engage a motivated customers who is scanning QR Code and convert them to loyalists. From the day I was introduced to QR Code to today, I am extremely excited for what QR Code is worth, but at the same time, severely impacted by how underutilized it is. For the sake of this blog, and to understand what stores near-by are doing with their QRCode, I visited my nearest mall and clicked photos of the first few QR executions. To my surprise, it did not take me much to find or click quick snapshots of few different type of QR implementations. But amazing thing is that they all are doing it wrong. I will get on it soon. QRCode is facing some challenges with adoption, but with capable mobile devices, it is bound to pick up if it has not already. With this slow QR Code adoption, the only thing retailers need is a lousy execution throwing away users from using this amazing digital wonder of the world.
So, what are retailers doing wrong?
QRCode deployed covers used cases ranging from âsignup with our mailing listâ, âdownload our appâ, to âvisit our social pageâ. There was no consistency in execution. Every store wants users to juggle in different ways. Below are 5 used cases that I came across. It is very likely that most of the retail store QRCode implementation falls into one of these. I can understand that retailers are still experimenting with QRCode projects and understanding the impact. But consider this: A user, who is motivated to click a QRCode, puts in considerable effort to do lots of clicks to get to other side. So, what is it all worth- A facebook like, a twitter follow, an app download or a signup for mailing list? Having a QRCode should be taken as similar to having a domain. Try having a domain name pointing to all these services. Just like domain names, QRCode are precious as well. It is a perfect way to engage an already committed user. So, why throw vague click-to-action at them. Why not grab their attention for something that is win-win for both the retailer and the customer.
Following are implementations of retail QRCode – âThe Good, The Bad and The Ugly sidesâ.
1. I got this image from someone and found it very interesting to share. It has some pros and cons to it.
The Good: QR Code is sitting in the primary location, gate is the first interface and attaching QR Code made it easily accessible. So, kudos for that.
The Bad: Is âfacebook likeâ or â twitter followâ that important? If a user jumping through hoops to scan a QRCode, to like a facebook page is appreciative of their effort? Is it providing enough value to retailer or user?
The Ugly: See at the end.
2. This is another example from a smoothie joint near the mall area, closer to my place.
The Good: It is great to separate interest groups, people with different intent will pick appropriate click to action. Here Yelp and Facebook audience are provided with separate QRCode.
The Bad: Confusion. With limited adoption and involvement, it is way too risky to have 2 QRCodes. It also exposes the campaign to technical issues. What if user scans them from distance that both QR show up etc. This implementation raises more questions than answers.
The Ugly: See at the end.
3. This is taken from a nearby Van Heusen outlet store from nearby mall.
The Good: $5 is very appreciative for the effort user is going through. This is gratifying users for their effort. $5 worked magic when it comes to fixing the eyes to banner as well.
The Bad: Â Confusing plate, 2 offers are bundled into one plate. It could confuse users. Text & QR are packaged into one.
The Ugly: See at the end.
4.Â This image is taken at a local GMC store. I like the way they explained the used case. I find no problem in understanding how to use it. But then, I am not sure if itâs usable for all audience.
The Good: Very well laid out plan on how to engage with the used case.
The Bad: Only caters to deal hunters; what if you are not here for deals?
The Ugly: See at the end.
5. This image was taken from a nearby Costco. I visit there often and never paid attention to this banner until recently.
The Good: The position of the banner. It was kept right above the checkout counter. In case a long queue is awaiting, user could use that waiting time to indulge with the banner.
The Bad: A descriptive banner, with fine prints and asking user to download an app. App is very intimate to users due to limited real-estate on mobile phone. It is asking the user too much of commitment while waiting.
The Ugly: See below.
The Ugly: Almost all the used cases suffer from the same issue, not creating a bi-directional engagement interface with user. QRCode is used when user is actually physically present in the store and scanning. Also, it is not known at the moment what the user could be suffering from, so, selling them something without knowing what they want to buy is not a great idea. So, it is important for retail stores to provide a dashboard that could better address their current need (tools to help a surfing user) and once current issue is addresses, provide them with an opportunity to convert those users by offering app download links, social follow buttons or email newsletter signups.
From the observation above, few things stand out. Retailer gets the importance of QRCode but still lack a used case that will help engage their customers better with their brand. As with all great brands, listening is as important of a task as talking. So, why QRCode should be any different? They should also have ability to listen to customer as well as talk to them. Therefore QRCode should be primarily thought of as a tool to engage an active customer.
It is important to look at QRCode from a different lens. Unlike, facebook like, mobile app, social follow, QRCode is used when user is actively engaged in a store, so selling them engagement tools for future might not be something that is uber targeted. However, one could obviously cross-sell those tools, on landing page when user scans a QRCode. So, QRCode interfaces should be handled differently and should not be mixed with loyalty tools.
So, an Ideal QRCode should have following components:
1. Single QRCode addressing all the needs of the user.
2. A well accessible placement of the QRCode, making it easily discoverable.
3. Well laid out procedure to help users engage with QRCode.
4. QRCode bringing users to a super dashboard that could help them in any possible way it can. i.e. providing product descriptions, deals, specials, live chats, app links etc.
5. Providing capability for users to leave comments, complaints, suggestion and fill surveys.
6. Ability to further help users extend the engagement by providing links to social media channels, apps, email list, newsletters etc.
7. Providing access to email list.
Based on the business, users, and used case, there may be more of less used cases as stated above, but the overall coverage should be pretty much same.
So, an advice to all the retailers, get back to whiteboards and rethink existing QRCode strategy. It is a big pot of gold if done right. As holiday season is approaching, this could be a great opportunity to connect with masses and engage with them by designing a perfect system.
and just to confuse the hell out of you.. below is a video that states 37 places to use QR, and yes, most of them are just bad places to use QRCode. My good friend Steve posted a blog on 9 Ways To Screw Up QR Codes at Trade Shows [Infographic], make sure to check it out.