QR Code Explosion- Entice, Entertain, Sell

by Frank White, Director of Retail Services

By now most of us are familiar with those small square boxes that look like a pixilated bar code on communications ranging from advertisements to business cards.  If you own a smartphone, you probably have a QR-code-reader app to decipher messages embedded in the black-and-white maze.

Retail innovation

The latest innovation in QR (Quick Response) codes in retail stores involves first enticing customers to use their smartphones to scan the code.  By doing so they can view video, audio, images, and text, which present special offers, direct product purchasing capabilities, entertainment, interactive product information, advice, how-to guides, fashion and home decor tips, localized promotional offers, and interaction with social media.

During the past two years, retail marketers have made a concentrated effort to bring stores directly to customers, and a new era is upon us.  According to Mobio Identity Systems, QR-code scanning worldwide increased by an astounding 772% in 2010 and 1143% during the first six months of 2011.

Tesco’s virtual store at the Seonreung subway station in Seoul, Korea
Buy your meat at the train station

The British retailer Tesco has taken virtual marketing to a new plateau.  Realizing that Korean customers were time pressed by the workday and long commutes, the company used the tried-and-true merchandise presentation technique of “billboarding” to attract attention and sell over 500 supermarket products via QR codes in Seoul’s subway stations.  Here the “merchandise” is literally a photo billboard with QR codes embedded next to each product.  Customers can scan the QR codes using the Tesco Homeplus app on their smartphones and get their purchases delivered right to their doorstep.  The Tesco video describing the virtual store is worth watching.

Description: :CalvinKleinQR.jpg   

Calvin Klein billboard  

 Description: :BrookstoneCatalogAd.jpg  

Brookstone ad

Fashion shows, social media connection, store window promotion, consumer research

QR code applications are increasingly becoming more varied and creative.  To promote its fall advertising campaign, Calvin Klein Jeans replaced three of its billboards — two in downtown New York and one on Sunset Boulevard in LA — not with images of sexy models, but with a bright red QR code under the words “Get It Uncensored.”  Passersby can’t resist using their smartphones to take a photo.  They are rewarded with an exclusive video ad featuring top male and female models displaying the new jeans collection.  After the spot plays, viewers can then share the code with their Facebook and Twitter networks.

This year, Brookstone, began a test of QR code usage in 30 of its New York City-area stores.  The test involves placing QR codes next to products and delivering real-time customer reviews, product videos and a link to Brookstone.com.  The unique home products retailer’s Rockefeller Center store was used to promote the test in shop windows via big-screen TVs that mimic the Apple iPhone.  The screens show consumers what they will see when they scan a code.

The Home Depot’s national communications strategy, launched in March 2011, featured QR codes in its nearly 2,300 stores, on in-store signage and in direct mail pieces.  The company’s technology has the capability to edit the codes as new content is available and retrieve customer demographic and shopping-pattern insights.

Restaurants get code creative

Restaurants are also finding a variety of marketing opportunites with QR Codes. A few examples include using them to promote loyalty programs, daily specials, bouncebacks, nutrition facts, coupons, take out ordering, table top signage, and to make reservations. Customers waiting for a table? Invite them to scan the QR code for the menu or restaurant information. Want to know how you’re doing? Add a QR code to the check holder with a customer survey. Entertain and inform the customer by inviting them to watch food being prepared by adding a QR code to the menu linking them to a video of the chef creating that specific menu item.  Cincinnati, Ohio based Skyline Chili is currently running a QR code scavenger hunt through SCVNGR where customers can earn points and unlock rewards like free cheese coneys, fries and drinks.

Not just for the big guys

Project 7, a non-profit consumer goods retailer based in Southlake, Texas, sells products such as bottled water, gum, mints and coffee to create sustainable revenue streams for worthy causes.  The organization uses QR codes on signage to promote biodegradable water bottles.

A newly opened surf-and-skate shop, Friction, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, installed QR codes on each clothing rack which, when viewed via smartphone, reveal custom mobile sites delivering coupons, information on product lines, and product-related videos.

How can you unleash the power of QR?  This slide presentation by CDG Interactive gives an 11-step “how-to” approach to reaching customers with QR code.  Click here to view.

Davis Wince, Ltd. is an Architecture firm with locations in Powell, Ohio and Denver, Colorado.
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