At Structural Graphics we are the leaders of the dimensional print marketing industry, and we have been for over 40 years. We are constantly re-defining what print can be by providing our clients with attention-getting solutions that stop people in their tracks. Our formats are engaging on their own, but by adding a digital element such as a Web Key, Video in Print, Virtual Reality, NFC tag, or QR code the piece becomes even more effective.
We’ve already debunked the notion that QR codes are dead, but with last month’s arrival of the new iOS 11, it looks like this rumor has been officially put to rest.
What’s a QR Code?
QR codes are unique graphics that link to a website, landing page or other information source. Previously, in order to scan the code and access the data associated with it, iOS users would need to download an app specializing in reading QR codes.
About that iOS 11 everyone’s been talking about…
Among the new features Apple announced, the new iOS allows iPhone 7 and above cameras to read QR codes natively. With the software update, the device’s camera app can read the code and displays the data automatically in a pop-up notification. No app download required.
While this feature is new for iOS, it isn’t entirely unheard of. Google’s Chrome on iOS launched an in-app QR code scanner earlier this year and social media users may be familiar with SnapChat’s “snapcodes” which allow users to easily scan and follow others.
Check out this Forbes article to learn more about the new iOS 11 and 25 of its “secret” features.
How does this affect me?
Well, if you’re an iOS user, the capability to natively read QR codes allows you a way to connect your mobile device with the real world in real-time. Think about it. By using these codes you can: verify the goods you’re purchasing online are not counterfeit, send and receive contact information with a single click, learn more about a company or product, access directions and more.
But it’s also a powerful marketing tool, too. Because users can now have more convenient access to hidden content, this opens to door to fun guerrilla tactics, interactive print displays or more effective experiential marketing for businesses and brands around the world. For instance, we can imagine seeing a QR code in a comic book to promote the new Wonder Woman movie or a treasure hunt sponsored by a travel company with QR codes leading participants to the next clue.
Why do people continue to refer to direct mail as “old school” marketing? There is nothing old school about direct mail anymore. Interest in direct mail took a hit for awhile as marketers flocked to the low cost and immediate gratification of digital marketing. Now many of those marketers are back.
Just look at the return of catalogs. After making marketing headlines by shelving its print catalog several years ago, J.C. Penney reversed course. Major retailers like Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue are sending more targeted and specialized catalogs. Williams Sonoma has made a deeper investment in its catalog by adding recipes.
While not every marketer uses catalogs, their return speaks volumes about the value of direct mail. Numerous studies have shown that even Millennials—the consummate digital generation—are responding to direct mail (when it’s done right).
According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 Response Rate report, the average response rate to direct mail is now 3.7% with a house list and 1% with a prospect list (compare that to .1% for email). Even a few years ago, the average response rate for direct mail was .5% to 1.0%. Something has changed, radically.
Let’s look at three reasons why direct mail is the hottest “new” trend.
Marketers are paying more attention to direct mail.
Marketers may take print out of the mix for awhile, then bring it back. When they do, they often bring back a newer, better version of direct mail — one that is more personalized, more targeted, and more creative than the “old” versions.
Print has become interactive.
Direct mail is changing. Interactive elements like augmented reality, QR Codes, and personalized URLs make it a responsive channel. The 2016 IKEA Catalog uses Augmented Reality to allow consumers to visualize products in their homes before they buy them. Recipients can scan a QR Code to be immediately taken to a video testimonial or demonstration of the product. If you’re a nonprofit, people can make donations via QR Code, as well.
Personalization is more powerful.
It used to be that people were highly skeptical of giving out their personal information, but they are becoming increasingly comfortable with it. Infosys found that 78% of consumers would be likely to purchase from a retailer multiple times if the retailer provided them with targeted offers, and 45% would be willing to trade “some privacy” for incentives tailored to their shopping habits. As consumers become more comfortable with giving out their data, marketers’ ability to create highly targeted, more effective direct mail campaigns gets easier.
Have you have fallen prey to the urban myth that QR Codes are dead? There are plenty of designers and industry pundits who think these 2D mobile barcodes clunky and out of date, but if you look at the data, the death of QR Codes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Consumers are actively using QR Codes to get coupons, access detailed product information, watch promotional videos, and take other steps that move them toward a purchase. If you’ve “moved on” from QR Codes, you’re abandoning a critical tool for building your business.
Let’s look at three facts about QR Codes that every marketer should know.
QR Code scanning is on the rise.
According to ExactTarget, 34% of smartphone users in the United States have scanned a QR Code while shopping in-store (ExactTarget Mobile Behavior Report 2014). This rises to 46% of those who own tablets. This doesn’t include people scanning QR Codes on direct mail, posters, in-store displays, packaging, and magazines. In fact, when ExactTarget asked about scanning coupons or QR Codes, it found that 43% of consumers had done so.
Can we quote Mark Twain here? “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” As you watch the data, sure, the growth rate of QR Code adoption is slowing. But that’s not unusual for a maturing technology.
QR Code scanning frequency is on the rise, as well.
In 2014, Scanbuy data showed 4.0 scans per person. In 2015, this rose to 4.3. That’s growth of 7.5%.
Among the most common uses for QR Codes are accessing coupons, downloading mobile apps, and accessing product information.
ExactTarget found that 56% of men and 39% of women have scanned QR Codes to gain quick access to information. Scanbuy found that when consumers are interested in a new product, 20% will scan a QR Code.
We could go on and on, but you get the point. QR Codes remain a cost-effective way to reach a high percentage of the mobile population. Here’s how to do it right:
Make the code highly visible on the direct mailer, in-store signage, packaging, or other channel.
Provide instructions on using the code, and perhaps more importantly, the value the consumer will gain from scanning it
Take a sip of your drink, the one from the number three value meal which came from your favorite drive-thru restaurant. Look down and it’s there. Open up the welcome packet to your hotel room, where you just checked in after a three-hour train ride. There too. And there, on that poster tacked to the coffee shop bulletin you’re scoping out while waiting for your soy latte. It seems that for every print marketing piece beckoning you to whet your appetite, there’s a QR code hovering nearby to snag you for dessert too. These days some sweet innovation is just what marketers need to capture people’s interest and communicate their brand’s message.
It’s pretty likely you’ve heard of a QR, or quick response, code before. It’s a fairly controversial technology in the marketing world, but despite what some marketers think this technology is definitely one to hit the ever-growing mobile masses. U.S. smartphone shares jumped roughly 40 percent in the four-year period spanning 2009 to 2013. The numbers, reported by Nielson’s mobile report for marketers demonstrate the rapid growth of mobile users hitting the consumer market.
Nielson Mobile Insights SurveyA clever way for marketers to capture that mobile audience is to tie their print communications in with digital channels. Enter the QR code.
QR code 101
QR codes provide a portal to the web. With the tap of a finger, people can scan a code with their smartphone and explore a customized website built to greet them. Technically, QR codes are two dimensional barcodes that look like this:
They are embedded with data that can be decoded through an imaging device or camera. It’s a technology that began in the 1990s for the Japanese automotive industry, but has since grown to a number of different markets across the globe.
When it comes to print and dimensional mail, QR codes can be an excellent way to drive consumers to specialized content, including: social media pages, mobile apps, contests, surveys, product info and other bonus material. These similar-but-not-quite barcodes can be incorporated into the design of just about anything, from product packaging, signage, brochures and posters to business cards.
QR codes: Putting them to use
SG recently incorporated a QR code and even the smartphone itself into a neat dimensional piece for the Ford Motor Company of Canada (produced by our Canadian partner Information Packaging). Designed and built to be an interactive promotional tool for Ford Canada’s new Ford Fiesta, SG customized a stage pop folder and enhanced it with a QR code linking the recipient to a mobile application.
Ford Fiesta’s mobile site is designed to educate people on the new model, so it sends viewers to its online showrooms. Other features of the app help them search for local Ford dealerships, learn about buying incentives and request price quotes. All this experienced for the first time through a playful dimensional paper piece that embeds the phone into a custom cutout frame for viewing. Check out these other interesting uses of QR codes:
QR codes link print to exclusive deals and discounts, instructional videos, print-outs and more.
Tracking, the final word
There’s one more reason why QR codes can be a great gateway to digital: traceable data. From how many users scanned the code, to how many actually responded to the call for action the numbers can be tracked and reported, giving marketers the information they need to make informed decisions about their marketing plan.
So what do you think? Have you implemented QR codes in your print materials? What was the outcome?
Hello, friends! This week we’re talking tech. We’ll take a quick look at some cool ideas that you can easily incorporate into your printed campaign. By incorporating these cost-effective elements into your strategy, your customers are able to interact with your brand in another dimension. Let’s start with the basics:
Video, Lights, and Sound:You can marry full motion video with the printed page. Video is available in a variety of screen sizes, video lengths, and is fully rechargeable and re-usable. It’s also 100% customizable. Think audio and LED panel lights are more suited to your marketing needs? Connect with your customers by inserting this technology in unique magazine inserts, direct mail, point of purchase displays, and premiums. Check out a video player that we produced for Qutenza:
A printed “tag” lives on your print piece and this acts as the trigger to launch the animation, the video, or the 3D rendering that responds to the context of your environment. Check out more about how our partner Taggar, is revolutionizing the industry:
Near Field Communication: (NFC) has also been a player for several years but is still considered cutting-edge. The basic premise of this technology utilizes wireless radio communications. NFC tags are small, thin discs that can be inserted into print pieces or stickers and are read via your smartphone or other NFC-enabled device. There are multiple vendors who are already building this capability into the hardware of their mobile devices – including Samsung, Nokia, and LG.
Here are some potential creative uses for NFC tags in everyday life. (Imagine what you could do to promote your brand and increase customer interaction!)