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QR codes: A marketer's key to measurement?

In a previous blog on our site called “Can QR code usage data support investment cost?” we opened a discussion about the limited uptake with QR code usage in North America. Without even looking for raw statistics on this, I would tend to agree with its premise, given that I have never actually seen a QR code advertisement nor have I ever actually registered one with my phone. Now that I’ve got the new BlackBerry Torch 9800, I thought I’d give it a try.

I found a very simple website which allowed me to create a QR code. The first thing was to determine the URL that I wanted to direct someone to. Naturally, I chose www.publicinsite.com as the site of choice for my testing and I created a corresponding QR code. The next step was to download an app for my BB9800 and see what it would do. I came across one called BeeTagg which has 3 simple functions: ‘ Scan’, ‘Favorites’ and ‘More’. I held the phone up to my screen, clicked the button, and it responded back with a URL for me to open in my mobile browser. Great. Now what?

Creating an experiment and measuring the results

I spent some time thinking about these codes and reading about them online, and I concluded that there is one very fundamental benefit to the QR code: tracking the offline advertising to the online channel (your website). While this may seem obvious, there are few things which must be considered or your web data will ultimately tell you nothing more than number of visitors.

Read more about mobile internet devices on PublicInsite.com.

For example, a basic QR code for www.publicinsite.com would look like this:

If this were in a magazine, a newspaper, or on a flyer somewhere, if someone read the QR code with their phone and came to our site, we’d know they were a visitor from a mobile device. Guess what… We would have known that without the QR code had they simply typed in our URL on the phone.

Consider the following QR code:

This QR code will also take people to our site, but it will be measured drastically differently than the previous. For instance, the URL will be resolved as the following:

http://www.publicinsite.com/web-analytics/?utm_source=newspapers&utm_campaign=OttawaCitizen&utm_medium=QRCode

An analytics tool such as Google Analytics will automatically register this information as a campaign which was done in ‘newspapers’. This visit would be identified as someone that was reading the Ottawa Citizen and they used the QR code via their mobile device to get it.

Does this make sense for a company like PublicInsite? Maybe not. My perspective is that the QR code could become very useful for larger national or international organizations with large advertising budgets.

Who comes to mind? How about The National Hockey League (www.nhl.com). With teams in 30 cities, millions of fans in North America and many more around the world, QR codes could be used in bus stops, subways, trains, airports, magazines, newspapers etc. and link back to their site with the specific city, location, and medium which was used for the ad. The NHL could then get better understanding of the medium which is working best; i.e. newspapers vs bus stops. Now that can become powerful. The ability to compare mediums of advertising from city to city across North America thanks to mobile browsers and commuters.

Sports? Apparel? Beverage suppliers?  Car manufactures? How about some of my favourites:

Never seen a QR code and want to try a few out with your phone? Get your phone, search for “QR Code Reader [enter device type]”, download and install a free app, then learn a bit about the author of this blog. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about your experience with the few QR Codes here coupled with your device and the app you chose to try (feel free to comment on my interests also!). More importantly, which one in your mind is the best optimized QR Code and why?

Nike, Reebok, Levis, Guess, Coke, Molson, GM, Ford, and on and on…

Overall, while I’ll be patient to see what happens with the QR code to see it is a fad or if they are here to stay, I will certainly be keeping my eyes open to see where they pop up… In the meantime, if you are going to consider using QR codes for your organization, consider the measurement aspect of it front and center.

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