February 8, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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How to use QR codes to achieve experiential ROI

As the line between the physical and digital worlds dissolves, one of the technologies helping to blend the two is the QR code. This new-old technology reemerged with a vengeance during the pandemic as a contactless connection point between brands and consumers. 

Thanks to the built-in smartphone QR readers in Apple and Google devices, the friction of accessing mobile content through QR codes has gone to zero, and the proof is in the pudding: Juniper Research now estimates that 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes by 2022, a 300% increase from its initial estimates in 2017. 

With 64% of 18-to-49 year olds in agreement that QR makes life easier in a touchless world and a 750% increase in QR downloads since the start of 2021, both brands and consumers have bought into the value of the technology. 

Now that the road has been paved for instant physical-to-digital connectivity, marketers need to think carefully about how to choose a QR platform that will offer contextually relevant content while integrating first-party data with their existing systems. 

Understanding consumer behavior outside the web

Unlike digital marketing, there’s never been a way to measure, analyze or integrate data from the consumer journey in the physical world. Experiential marketing teams consistently struggle to provide data sets that prove ROI for their brands or, better yet, provide actionable consumer insights.

There’s a gap in our understanding of how consumers behave under different conditions in the physical world and that lack of insight leaves brands incapcitated to fully understand and take advantage of their most persuasive moments with consumers—that is, when they’re face to face with a brand. 

With traditional consumer tracking and data collection sources like third-party cookies disappearing from the web, it’s time for brands to start looking at the opportunity for data and insights from the physical world. 

Isn’t all QR tech the same?

QR technology itself is open source and free to use, but while most QR codes visually look the same the technology’s real value lies in the platform powering it.

Google “free QR code” and you’ll find many services that allow you to redirect to an external link from the code. You’ve probably experienced this type of QR engagement at a restaurant or on product packaging. Some basic QR services will also include data on the number of scans and when they occurred.

Free services like this can be a good place to start, but with limited functionality and no consumer-engagement analysis, mid- to large-size brands will soon be looking for more sophisticated platforms. If you’re looking for QR performance analysis, dynamic customer profiles and remarketing capabilities, you should look at the emerging market of QR-based platforms built for physical-world engagement. 

Marketing platforms designed for the physical world deliver a radically different type of data payload.  This payload is unique in that the first-party data collected is overlaid with weather, location, time and other environmental details. By wrapping the environmental information around the data payload, brands can start to understand how consumer behavior is dynamically impacted by the physical environment. 

Physical-world marketing platforms can also compare conversion rates across different cities, analyze QR placement and show heat maps of targeted activity. Consumer scoring profiles can help brands prioritize consumers based on engagement and personalize their remarketing efforts based on the data they provide. In essence, these platforms use data to paint a picture of your physical world marketing efforts and provide new brand insights based on that data.

Using data as currency

One example of how brands in the retail setting are creating experiential QR campaigns is through gamification. For example, QR codes can be placed throughout the store as shelf talkers as part of a multi stop scavenger hunt, and shoppers can be invited to participate in the game by finding and scanning every one of, say, five QR codes. Each QR code could contain two targeted questions that, once answered, reveal a clue to the next QR location.

Targeted questions—Is gut health important to you? How often do you eat chips without salsa? What’s your favorite social platform?—can give brands quick insights on each consumer.

Incentivization can be provided by graduated, in-store only discounts based on the number of codes the consumer scans (i.e., how much data they provide). The shoppers who complete the hunt might receive 50% off their purchased product that day, all tracked through the QR platform. 

From these interactions, a consumer profile is created with engagement scoring, and the data they provide through the QR codes can be used to personalize remarketing efforts. Return visits to the retailer can be tracked and new information added to the consumer profile. This information can then be exported to CRMs or email marketing platforms while maintaining attribution. Understanding more about the audience’s dietary preferences, shopping habits, leisure time and motivations to return to the store become a goldmine of consumer influence. 

There’s a wealth of consumer information that lies undiscovered in the physical world. Forward-thinking brands will begin to untap these insights using physical-to-digital marketing platforms that focus on first-party data collection and engagement analysis.


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