QR Codes and 2D Barcodes

If you look around, anywhere, you are bound to see a 2D barcode or two around.  You can find them on direct mail pieces, window banners in retail stores, catalogs and magazines, weekly ads, in-store signage, product packaging, fact tags for products and more. Most recently you might remember the “Egg Hunt” that Old Navy did where you could search for QR codes to scan and reveal offers throughout the store.

They are all around you, and for good reason.  40% of US mobile devices are smart phones. And one thing they are looking for that smart phone to do, is easily and quickly provide them with access to information.  Sure, a person can use their smart phone and get on the internet and search for the information they need, OR they can quickly scan a code the immediately directs them to where they want to go.  What could be better than that? 2D barcodes and QR codes can direct a customer to an information page, instructional videos or contest pages.

Here are some things that you should know about using QR Codes:

  1. QR codes are not the only type of 2D barcodes. The most popular 2D barcode formats are QR codeDataMatrixScanLife EZcode, and Microsoft Tag (Tag).2D Barcode Popular Formats: QR Code, DataMatrix, ScanLife EZcode, and Microsoft Tag                                                       There are several key differences in these code formats. ScanLife EZcode and Microsoft Tag are proprietary formats only decodable by their tools, while QR and DataMatrix formats are open standard.
  2. Tools that generate and read 2D barcodes are FREE.
  3. 2D Barcode Content Should Provide Special Value for the Customer. Take the Old Navy Egg Hunt contest for example, I went into an Old Navy on the day the “hunt” started and scanned all 15 of the codes in store… only to find out that I have wasted 25 minutes of my time for NOTHING.  Not only did I have to reenter in my email address every time I scanned a code in store to see if I have won anything, but I got absolutely nothing from it.  Not even a “free tshirt” deal or “spend $50 and get $5 off” deal.  I felt completely gyped. I spent all that time and only got the same “you haven’t won, but thanks for entering” webpage each time I scanned a code.  From a customer experience perspective, this was a TERRIBLE experience.  Took way too much time and provided value.  However, looking at the code that Victoria Secret put in their Valentine’s mailer, it was a GREAT experience.  Not only did it take you to a mobile friendly site of their Valentine’s catalog, but allowed you to easily go from browsing to purchasing without wasting any time.  It was a seamless experience and very well executed.  Not only was I not disappointed, but was very impressed by it and remember that experience to this day.  This is something that companies need to aim for–a memorable experience.
  4. Small or Complex QR Codes Can’t be Scanned by Smartphones With Lesser Quality Cameras.  This is the biggest mistake that marketers are facing right now.
  5. Consumers need guidance to scan 2D barcodes.
  6. 2D barcodes can be customized artistically.

I was inspired to write this blog after reading this great article about “The Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes.” (I highly recommend reading it.) And for the fact that I just got a smart phone about 2 months ago and now don’t know how I ever lived without it… I am drawn to 2D barcodes in store to get me the information I’m looking for quicker.  As a marketer, I am also curious to see new ways that companies are using 2D barcodes to promote their products/services.  

How have you seen 2D barcodes used??

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6 Responses to QR Codes and 2D Barcodes

  1. Tom says:

    Good post. A client of ours was actually CHARGED $10,000 for QR code generation and implementation. We were floored when we heard that. To a lot of brands out there it’s a mystifying product.

    • The Author says:

      Ok, that is just ridiculous!! Sad that agencies and companies out there are taking advantage of smaller companies to help move them into new technology. Good thing they found you guys! 🙂

  2. Jan Wencel says:

    Good info, Kim.

    At the MCA last week, I noticed they were using bar codes to give visitors more information about certain pieces of art. I didn’t have an application to partake (and downloading it without wifi took almost as much time as I was at the museum), but I’ll be sure to use it the next time…or at the next museum. It seemed like a brilliant use to me…but it also left me wondering why they didn’t provide multiple methods to reach this additional information…for those without the application or smartphone challenged.

    I hope to see you socially sometime soon. It’s almost time for an outdoor dining experience again!

  3. The Author says:

    @Jan- That’s great that they had that there for additional information. Most companies and retailers do incorporate SMS functionality into their signage and use of QR codes as well. One of the things to keep in mind when a company does that though is that most phones that won’t allow the consumer to scan the code to get the additional information also won’t bring them online or allow for the same information to be transferred to them- such as a video or checking out a website. It’s a thin line to tread on in terms of creating a good customer experience, but definitely a way things are heading in the future!

  4. Jen Zanella says:

    Hey Kim! After we worked at Newell together I left to work for Vibes Media, a company that specializes in Mobile Marketing specifically in the non-premium space for brands and marketers. QR codes are a hot topic around here with some of the brands we work with, but there has been some major adaptation challenge with consumers. In some other countries, QR code readers come pre-installed on devices. US carriers aren’t doing that, and I think it would make a big difference if they did! I agree with what you say about making it worth the customer’s time. I feel like there are a lot of more rich ways to connect with mobile consumer’s than what’s being delivered with QR codes in the current space.

    • The Author says:

      Wow, I had no idea that other countries were pre-installing readers on mobile devices. That really would make it much easier if that was done here since you wouldn’t have to worry so much about which reader and barcode type to go with. I agree that it is a hot thing and could really go far if we all started using the technology to it’s fullest! Thanks for the insight! I hope your role at Vibes is treating you well.

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