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New codes connect consumers, business

Technology: Growing Quick Response, or QR, codes help customers better follow their interests

Posted: April 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The picture above shows a consumer that has just scanned a Quick Response code from The Signal into a smartphone.

 

It’s the bar code of the future, but it’s available today to print advertisers. It’s an open door to multimedia advertising that offers every convenience to on-the-go consumers. And perhaps best of all, it’s free.

“It” is the Quick Response code, or QR code for short.

Typically square-shaped boxes with a series of black-bar elements on a white background, the new generation of codes gives consumers the opportunity to learn product and service information — or to shop — instantly.

And QR codes are free and easy to create.

Likewise, the technology is just as simple for consumers to use. Scores of free reader applications are available for consumers to download onto their smart phones. Scanning a QR code links customers with information they seek on any given product or service.

“Quick response, or QR codes, allow businesses to attract and message consumers wanting information in a seamless way,” said Luther White, general manager of Lexus of Valencia.

Marketing tools
QR codes can act as a hyperlink between print and multimedia.

Print advertising attracts customers by designing targeted and brief messages. Consumers who want more information can easily access it through the QR code.

When a consumer scans a code, he or she can receive contact or promotion information directly on a smartphone or be directed to a company’s website for additional service or product information.

Innovative automotive dealerships, retailers and Realtors in the Santa Clarita Valley are using QR codes right now, staying in advanced lanes of marketing trends.

“QR codes allow us to send a mobile user a message, phone number, video, or route them to our website with a simple scan of the unique box-shaped code,” White said.

“We utilize QR codes to take our customers to our website, Facebook page to include giveaways, weekend specials, customer reviews, Twitter page and our blog.”

Retailers are linking customers to general sales and promotions of specific items or coupons for discounted specials.

“We started using the codes a couple of months ago,” said Apo Yessayan, owner of Classic Designs jewelry store in Valencia. “Our future plans are to use the codes to promote a particular item in our store.”

QR codes in print real estate advertising are growing, too. A code can link a potential homebuyer with a video tour of a specific home, connect the buyer with broker information or provide more details on the property for sale.

“Every real estate yard sign should have an interactive mobile component to engage potential buyers,” says Brad Blumberg, CEO of Smarter Agent.

Smarter Agent offers Realtors QR codes named “toors” for use on all marketing materials. Potential homebuyers can scan the codes to see all the listings in the service and be able to filter their search based on location and agent.

“We just started using the QR codes,” said Bob Kellar of Kellar Davis realty company in Canyon Country. “It sends a reader to that specific listing on our website.”

Invisible and silent

Unique QR codes can be created for each marketing campaign or sales promotion allowing companies to identify which marketing effort is attracting the most positive response.

However, businesses that run an ad and expect customers to walk through the door, or call on the telephone, must get used to a whole new way of doing business.

Unless a company is analyzing data that tracks consumers who have voluntarily connected with that company by scanning a QR code, a business may be unaware that consumers are quietly learning about, or shopping for, products or services on its company website.

The key is for businesses to learn how to capture that consumer by creating a call to action, experts say.

“Sometimes the advertising is attracting potential customers but it’s not converting to an immediate sale,” said Brian Cuda, owner of Conceptinet of Santa Clarita.

“Linking the code to a call-for-action page on a website, like a contact page or signing up for email news alerts, can capture that customer even if they don’t come in to buy.”

Data reporting
A number of service providers both generate free codes and provide companies with feedback regarding how many people have been quietly shopping their services or products — goo.gl, bit.ly or Percent Mobile, to name a few.

Many analytic services are free at the moment, but some are more sophisticated than other reporting tools.

Following up on the data allows a business to learn how many “clicks” on its website resulted from consumers scanning the QR code. That information may be broken down by the day of the week, as well as the source.

A business can also watch to see which campaigns have been the most effective with consumers.

“QR codes also give us better analytics; that is a stronger tool to measure the effectiveness of a particular offer, affording us the ability to extend or adjust the offering based upon the consumer’s reaction to it,” White said.

Endless possibilities
The application use for QR codes is endless. An organization only has to use its collective imagination.

Nonprofits and political campaigns can use the code to raise funds; the travel industry can direct customers to booking sites; and the medical industry can link people to everything from general consumer health information to insurance program details or quotes.

The codes can hold videos, music, Google Maps links, photos and music files that can be downloaded to the mobile device.

Restaurants can link customers to their reservation phone line or carry-out menus. Increasingly, museums, tourist attractions and historical sites are also using the codes allowing tourists to go on self-guided tours.

A QR code printed on a business card can link a contact with information about one’s business or contain contact information and phone number for storing on the scanner’s phone contact list.

The codes can also be linked to any online social or professional media such as a company’s Facebook page or an entrepreneur’s LinkedIn profile.

New York City places QR codes on all city construction permits, directing anyone who scans the code to a website reporting what work has been approved at the site, who owns the property and how many violations the project has earned.

Save time and money
While the QR codes have injected a modern-day marketing tool into a very competitive marketplace, the fact that the codes are free and easy to use gives businesses the opportunity to respond more quickly to changing market conditions.
Companies are spending money to do business again, but emerging from an economic drought, businesses are still spending somewhat cautiously.

QR codes give companies an option to shift gears quickly without spending a lot of money to do so.

“QR codes are free and extremely flexible as compared to applications, which take time to develop, ensuring a particular application works across different platforms, such as iPhone, Droid and Blackberry platforms,” White said.

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