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QR Codes: Why scan now is the CTA of the future

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When Justine, a mother of three, was unpacking groceries from a recent trip to the store, she checked her receipt to make sure everything lined up. That's when she noticed a QR code on the back in the shape of the grocer’s logo, asking her to “Scan now for coupons.”

She picked up her phone, scanned the code and got those coupons. “My next trip back, I used several of them,” she said. “Now I scan all my receipts to make sure I get the most savings.” Marketing goal achieved. QR codes have been around since the mid-1990s but faded from view until the pandemic reintroduced them as a useful touchless tool. Now they’re back in fashion like mom jeans, corduroy and chunky sneakers.

You’ve probably seen them everywhere, including in a historic 2022 Super Bowl ad featuring an ultra-simple QR code screensaver. In the first minute, the QR code took 20 million viewers to the Coinbase landing page, crashing it for more than one hour, confirmed Surojit Chatterjee, Coinbase Chief Product Officer.

That one example, on advertising’s biggest day of the year, proves QR codes have risen to the top of marketers’ go-to toolkit.

“Suddenly, a once-dormant marketing tool has become a powerful way for marketers to connect with consumers, driving them offline to online.”

Why a QR renaissance?

What's behind the QR resurgence? It's about the ubiquitous nature of the mobile devices we carry, and the pandemic:

Accessibility with mobile ease. When QR codes first came out, consumers needed a separate app to scan. That created friction, interrupting the buyers journey. Few people bothered to take the extra step. Today, QR readers are built into most phones’ camera. Point at the QR code and automatically you’re connected to a digital experience. eMarketer predicts smartphone QR code scanners to increase from just over 50% in 2019 to nearly 100% by 2025.

Contactless, safe options during the pandemic. Almost overnight, restaurants started connecting menus to QR codes that customers could scan to order there or as take-out. Soon, other retail and hospitality establishments followed.

“Within a very short time scanning a QR code became second nature to a much wider audience of smartphone users,” said John Puterbaugh, Quad Executive Director, Multichannel-Emerging Media. “Suddenly, a once-dormant marketing tool has become a powerful way for marketers to connect with consumers, driving them offline to online.”

Just how many connections? According to Statista:

  • 6.3 billion people worldwide were using smartphones in 2021 — more than 80% of the world's population
  • By 2026, the number of users is expected to grow to 7.5 billion
  • In June 2021, 59% of U.S. shoppers believed QR codes would be a permanent part of using their phone in the future

“It's about connecting consumers with businesses in new and engaging ways, using the simplest technology everyone understands — their smartphone,” Puterbaugh said.

How are marketers using QR codes?

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Retail Businesses

Retail businesses are using QR codes to drive purchases, deliver coupons and provide more packaging labeling information

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Restaurants are using QR code at tables to access menus, discounts and loyalty programs

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TV commercials and other programming are building in QR codes that viewers can scan to enhance the content experience online; advertisers are driving traffic to landing pages

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Realtors are placing QR codes on signs outside homes for sale, giving buyers a chance to virtually tour and receive more information

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Businesses Of All Sizes

Businesses of all sizes are using QR codes to connect with consumers on social media, increasing followers and enhancing engagement

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Direct Mail

Companies using direct mail are adding QR codes to drive traffic to engaging online experiences

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Print Advertising

Print advertising uses QR codes to provide coupons and seamless online or in-store connections

Flowcode: QR codes 2.0

Growing in popularity are advanced Flowcodes, a next-gen QR technology that provides more options for marketers to engage with customers. Unlike the basic, square black-and-white image of a traditional QR code, Flowcodes combine brand design with a QR code to create a unique image. They can be colorful, brand-specific and, dare we say, pretty.

“More importantly, given the deprecation of third-party cookies, Flowcodes are a great way to capture first- party data,” Puterbaugh said. “With businesses focusing on better understanding customers and their offline and online behaviors, Flowcodes are becoming the de facto platform for deploying better looking, smarter QR codes.”

Each Flowcode provides advanced tracking through a unique URL. When the code is scanned, it will first go to that unique URL and then to the set destination, reporting back how many times a code was scanned, from where and more. The dashboard shows the number of scans, and the number of page visits and clicks across each link type.

Proprietary data captured with Flowcodes:

  • Date, time, device and location of scan
  • Scanner’s digital destination
  • Scanner’s historical activity
  • Product or service
  • Code distribution offline channel
  • Offline code placement

Analytics and insights provided:

  • Attribution
  • Media efficiency
  • When and where the code was scanned
  • Who is engaging with the product or service?

“Including a strong call to action, placed near the code, is vital,” said Puterbaugh. “It gives the consumer the reason to scan.”

Instead of the old “Call today” or “Act now” CTA at the end of television or print ads, “Scan now” has become today’s CTA. If you’d like to learn how to customize your QR or Flowcode strategy to better engage with customers, connect with one of our experts.

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