The return of the QR code: The world finally catches up to this powerful marketing tool

4 minute read

Don’t call it a comeback – QR codes have been around for years – but the world is finally catching up to them.

Consumers demanding touchless interactions in their everyday encounters have revived marketers’ interest in them – prompting them to use the QR code as a powerful tool in their marketing strategy to link the offline and online world. Simple to create, accessible to all and popular across generations – QR codes are now getting a second look from marketers determined to make meaningful and unique connections with consumers.

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Catch up with QR codes

Developed in 1994, the quick response code – or QR code – grabbed marketers’ attention. Its popularity faded quickly as its potential for instant connections was outstripped by the shortcomings of technology at the time.

Today, advances in smartphones have returned the QR code to prominence – just in time to become an indispensable companion in a touchless world.

In the last year, QR codes have found their way into everyday life and business. This widespread re-adoption has created a tremendous opportunity for marketers – especially when incorporated into direct mail marketing strategy.

How marketers can benefit from QR codes

QR codes boast an array of benefits that marketers can take advantage of.

Create memorable experiences across industries and demographics

QR code versatility cuts across all industries and business strategies – from retail to real estate, purchases to content. Restaurants are serving up QR codes with links to digital menus. Hotel chains use them to make check-in seamless and touchless. Big box stores, grocery stores, even small mom-and-pop shops are embracing QR code-based payments.

You may have noticed savvy brands using the technology with retail packaging and displays, television advertisements and direct mail marketing.

Burger King connected with younger prospects by capitalizing on the shopability of QR codes in a royal way with its QR Whopper campaign. It consisted of a series of TV commercials that featured a scannable code floating around the screen.

Brands recognize the value of today’s QR code – and so do consumers. The use of QR codes is on the rise and it’s resonating across all age demographics.

Percentage reflecting usage: 27% 34-44 years, 21% 44-54 years, 20% 24-34 years, 14% 24 years and under.

Unite offline and online audiences with QR codes

QR codes are an innovative way to connect the physical experience to the digital world. Marketers are seeing the value of including the QR code in direct mail marketing campaigns. It forms a seamless bridge between the online and offline worlds in real time. QR codes can bring a physical mail piece to life with a relevant, interactive consumer experience that can increase engagement and drive conversion. For example, Absolut Vodka used QR codes and direct mail marketing as part of a creative media mix to serve up a perfect cocktail to reach metropolitan millennials in lockdown. The campaign drove people into the store to pick up Absolut’s annual holiday collector bottle.

Move data at the speed of business

What brand doesn’t want more data? QR Codes are customer data magnets and a useful tool for both marketers and consumers.

Dynamic QR codes offer flexibility that is game changing for businesses and will be liked by consumers. A brand’s message can be updated in real time with no need to reprint the original mail piece – great for a restaurant posting daily specials, an automotive dealer whose offers change monthly or a bank whose interest rates can change overnight.

As privacy concerns increase and third-party identifiers fall from favour, first-party data will become more important. QR codes benefit everyone. Marketers can use them to capture various metrics, including total number of scans, day/time/location of scans, device and operating system used and more. Consumers get instant gratification, up-to-date information from the brand and easy access to special offers.

The opportunities across industries are endless. Here are some examples of how direct mail QR codes can be used in automotive, real estate and retail:

Examples of how direct mail QR codes can be used in automotive, real estate and retail.

Examples of how direct mail QR codes can be used in automotive: book a test drive, build and price, pre-order new model, current offer, referral rewards, find a dealer, enter a contest. How direct mail QR codes can be used in real estate: book showing, virtual tour, view image gallery, house valuation, listing directions, contact info, realtor homepage. How direct mail QR codes can be used in retail: Drive to store, connect to website, sales and discounts, how-to videos, product instructions, brand content, social media links.

All this data can be used to monitor results from campaigns. This allows marketers to define which strategies succeeded and which did not.

QR codes capitalize on the window of opportunity when people are on the go. Since users interact online from anywhere at anytime, QR codes can be used to bridge the non-digital and digital gap and convert sales at the opportune time from virtually any location.

Move the market forward with QR codes

Our world is changing. Audiences continue to evolve in how they want to interact with brands and organizations seeking their attention. Marketers must continue to meet customer expectations and innovate along with them to be successful. QR codes will be a huge piece of that evolution.

Once almost forgotten, QR codes have risen to the occasion in the last year. They provide audiences with a much-desired tool for touchless interactions and provide marketers with a powerful and creative way to engage, acquire, retain and convert audiences.

Consider the comeback complete – QR codes are offering a new way forward.

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