God bless Andy Rooney, he was truly an American original. If he was still with us today (and a bit more tech savvy), he might begin this post by saying: “did you ever notice how most marketers who use QR codes don’t have a clue how to use them right?” And, he would be correct. Marketers regularly make simple and avoidable mistakes that torpedo a QR code’s effectiveness.
Let’s take a quick look at a few ways our colleagues botch up these little two-dimensional bar codes.
- 1. Broken links: Your prospect fires up the barcode app and scans a code, only to be directed to “page not found” or 404 errors. This is not only disappointing; it portrays your brand and your company in an unfavorable light. If you are going to use a QR code in your advertising, make sure that it works first. Test it.
- 2. Unnecessary complexity: A QR code stores information in two-dimensional patterns so the more you need to store, the more complex the code becomes. Older smartphones, with less capable cameras, often do not have the resolution to scan these codes correctly, frustrating their users and possibly costing you a sale. Make sure that most smartphones can read your QR codes by keeping them simple or using a URL compressor like bit.ly. Again, test it on every smart phone you can get your hands on.
- 3. Link to conventional web sites: Marketers often forget that most users scan QR codes on a smartphone because they create links to conventional web pages designed for viewing on a computer. Opening a full web site on a smartphone is not a user-friendly experience; besides difficulty navigating, most people have trouble reading four-point type on a four-inch screen. When you use a QR code to link to a web site, make sure to optimize the landing page for mobile viewing.
- 4. Relying solely on a QR code: This technology is cool, but let’s face it, not everyone wants to pull out their phone and scan a QR code to contact you. Unfortunately, marketers forget to include a standard URL or other contact information, leaving no way for your prospect to get in touch with you. I recently saw an ad for an event that used a QR for registration and nothing else… no doubt attendance was thin.
Of course, all of the marketing rules that apply in off-line and on-line channels still apply. Effective use of QR codes must include a well-targeted message, feedback mechanisms and a call to action.
However, the best plan will flop if you fail to observe these simple rules. Make sure that the QR code resolves to a working page, keep the codes simple and readable, optimize linked sites for mobile viewing and include other online and offline ways to contact you.