There’s currently a tremendous “buzz” around QR codes and their usefulness as a successful marketing tool. Most critics cite problems with ease of use for consumers, and landing on non-mobile ready sites as reasons QR codes aren’t gaining more momentum. I would suggest that QR codes are indeed beginning to flourish, will soon be everywhere, and that such critics are looking at the codes from an archaic perspective. Phones are steadily getting better at scanning (for example, scanning a code on my Motorola Droid is hardly an issue, even in sub-optimal light and when my hands aren’t particularly steady), and manufacturers and retailers are quickly catching onto mobile sites and landing pages. While consumers may need to be educated on the use of QR codes, businesses are just now beginning to understand how they can function as a customer engagement tool inside the store. QR codes not only act as an additional salesperson, but they also bring traffic to your social networking sites, netting more Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers. All of which builds brand loyalty and future sales.
One of the best examples of using QR codes at shelf level is found at Best Buy. Almost every item in the store has a QR code next to the price that leads to their mobile-enabled site showing pictures, reviews and other additional information. Not only does this increase customer engagement, shopping time and loyalty, but it also helps educate consumers on a purchase by providing information not available on the packaging. Reviews have been shown to be popular in helping consumers rank a product in their mind and make better buying decisions.
So, how are QR codes useful for the natural foods industry? Our industry is full of manufacturers and retailers that are passionate about educating customers. I’ve seen more natural food companies directly interact with their consumers on social networking sites by posting pictures, quizzes, contests and coupons, than in any other industry.
QR codes don’t necessarily have to be limited to the shelf level. They can also be used on point-of-sale customer billboards, fliers and signs around the store for the same contests and coupons, as well as a wealth of other marketing and promotional solutions such as videos, training, fun facts, new item introduction, and education. The Independent Natural Food Retailer Association (INFRA) uses QR codes on its monthly product fliers linking customers to mobile landing pages created by Digital Earth Network. These landing pages feature a photograph of the product, a description, links to that manufacturer’s mobile Facebook and Twitter, and nutrition information. Another good example of reaching out socially that I recently saw in NYC, was of a QR code posted at various points around the store, linking consumers to their Facebook fan page. Very practical and easy to create.
The codes should land on mobile ready landing pages to ensure customer ease of use and have meaningful content, in order to increase the likelihood of future customer engagement with the codes. Customers deserve simplicity, value and respect for their time researching and interacting with a product or brand. QR codes and their future predecessors are here to stay, and every business needs to hop on this wave sooner rather than later. Pricing and customer service are taken for granted by consumers, and business owners today need every competitive edge they can get. QR codes are relatively simple and inexpensive tools of engagement that consumers of the future will come to take for granted, just like any promotion or a polite cashier at checkout. Be on the cutting edge and lead the pack, not on the treadmill of competition that has everyone else scrambling for attention. Reach out today and take the necessary steps towards implementing a marketing program using QR codes, and engage tomorrows consumer before your competitor does.
Geoffrey Robinson is founder of Digital Earth Network, a leader in the emerging world of mobile and digital marketing content and associated applications. Geoffrey was the former founder of Eye Force Productions, a web based advertising company, and has an extensive professional background, particularly in the Natural Foods industry, in sales, marketing, business operations, consulting, Point of Sale technology and other related verticals.
Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, Oct. 4, 2011