QR Codes: Don't get left behind

QR Codes: Don't get left behind

I was asked to write this article for Box Score, a bi-monthly publication by the
Association of Independent Corrugated Converters


“A good hockey player plays to where the puck is. A great hockey player plays to where the puck is going to be.” This quote by the great Wayne Gretzky applies directly to our ever-evolving technological age. We can look at our market and see where everyone is now. But where are we going to be and how can we get that competitive edge? Wherever the next destination, QR codes, short for “quick response” codes, are going to help take you there. First, the basics.

What the @!%# Is a QR code?

These boxy looking patterns are like bar codes on steroids. They can hold over 15 times more information than a traditional bar code, and can be read with up to 30% of the pattern torn, dirty, or missing. This technology is the first time anyone has been able to take someone from being offline to being online in a matter of seconds with the sole intention of interacting with the owner of the code.

QR CodeHow Do I Create a QR Code?

Getting a QR code is not only outrageously simple and quick, it’s free. Google search “free QR Code generator” to connect with literally hundreds of sites (we really like this one for its vector output capability). On most, it’s an easy three-step process, after which you have a file to download onto your computer. Then the code is all yours: Print it on your corrugated, slap it on your business card - even your company T-shirts. One business painted a 10,000-square-foot QR code on their roof for people looking at Google Earth.

How Do I Scan a QR Code?

A free application (or “app”) on any smart phone gives you the necessary tools to scan one of these and launch you into whatever information resource or website tag is linked with the code. Newhall Klein has had success with the RedLaser application.

But Why?

QR codes give you the opportunity to reach out to the recipient of any package to engage, inform or even market to them through their own mobile device. Immediately! Targeted! Customized! Free! While overall percentages of people actually using QR codes got off to a slow start, from 2010 to 2011 there was a 4539% increase in scanning and awareness. Already 22% of Fortune 50 companies have incorporated QR codes into their business strategy; it won’t be long before the majority of companies are taking advantage
of this technology.

C’mon: I Make Boxes

As it relates to the corrugated industry, the use of QR codes raises another question:
placement. Is it practical to place codes on corrugate packaging, knowing that their most effective use is immediate interaction? A basic rule of thumb: If the customer touches the box, there is opportunity to provide more information – and better enhance your relationship.

How about placing a QR code next to your company stamp? This could:

  • Link to a video about your full range of services, or your website (but linking to something more exciting is most effective)
  • Offer educational tips on corrugated
  • Cross-sell opportunities

But Why? Part 2 – More Ideas

There are plenty of practical uses for QR codes, which is why many of your clients currently use them.

  • Give coupons, promotional information, or time-pertinent return incentives to bring customers right back to your business
  • Create a link to join your loyalty program, get on your email list, or sign up for special discounts
  • Connect to the social network of your choice, where customers can “Like” your company or “Share” their new purchase with friends
  • Link to a current sweepstakes competition you’re running or an “Enter to win” kind of program
  • Improve customer service by linking to an online survey asking about your company’s performance and what you can do better
  • Direct customers to a YouTube video demonstrating instructions, directions or features in relation to product
  • Link to a “tips and tricks” website or blog of other users of the product to help the customer with questions they might have
  • For edible or perishable products, show nutrition information or recipe options
  • Link to an order confirmation site or the ability to see a receipt of sale
  • Use an SKS code (very similar to QR) to encrypt the code for onetime use or enforce a time lock to limit availability of the link
  • Dial a predetermined number when scanned, e.g. human resource representative or business helpline

How Do I Make Sure They Work?

  • Don’t place them on objects that are difficult to scan – trucks and billboards
  • Size DOES matter – don’t make them too small – as a general rule, no smaller than 1.5” square
  • Placement should always be on a clean background with a white border
  • Always test your QR code to make sure it goes to the right place
  • Speaking of the right place, link your QR code to a mobile friendly location to avoid lengthy load times and compatibility issues (flash is NOT supported by iPhone, iPad)

Why Not You?

I just read an article on Mobile Commerce Daily: “Applebee’s Franchisee increases lunch sales by 9.8pc with QR codes.” When placed somewhere such as a restaurant with a captive audience, marketers can keep consumers entertained while they wait. The franchise boasted not only a jump in sales, but gained 5,900 “Likes” on Facebook and 55,000 scans of their codes through this one campaign. Is there anything entertaining you could do? Hint: A marketing agency can help. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. As the awareness and popularity of QR codes continues to grow, opportunities to use this brilliant tool to your advantage will also increase. Right now, as you read, people are scanning QR codes across the world. The only question is whether you are going to get in on the action or not. Follow the puck.

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