10 Ways to Use QR Codes for Better Conversion Rates

The QR Code Conversion Toolbox

From building loyalty and generating sales to capturing customer feedback and boosting local SEO, check out the ways 2D barcodes like QR code and Microsoft Tag can improve conversion rates and help achieve your business goals.

Mobile Barcodes 101

QR codes are a 2D barcodes that resemble square-like mazes. The content encoded in these barcodes can be revealed with a smartphone using a QR code reader app. QR codes can store 133 times more data than a UPC (1D barcode) including letters and numbers which enables storage of various content – hyperlinks, maps, phone numbers, email, and more. Although the technology is still very new to North America, mobile barcode scanning was up over 4500% comparing Q1 2010 to Q1 2011.

Golden Rules of Mobile Barcode Usage:

  1. Serve a business objective
  2. Add value for the user
  3. Provide contextual assistance
    (e.g. link to get a reader app, call-to-action, barcode alternative, etc.)
  4. Test to ensure codes are scannable

Note: Unscannable QR codes are an epidemic and hurt adoption rates. Inferior camera phones like iPhone 3GS and Blackberry with less than 3 MP resolution and no autofocus cannot scan barcodes smaller than 1"x1". Test with these types of camera phones in addition to various reader apps, lighting and speed to truly verify scannability .

Read up on QR code marketing fundamentals to learn more about tools and best practices.

Conversion Optimization 101

A conversion simply means that a user completed an intended call-to-action. If you invite 100 people to an event, and 30 people RSVP, the conversion rate is 30%. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the practice of increasing the percent of users that act on a suggested action.

QR Codes as a Conversion Tool

Conversion optimization tactics target…

  1. What users want
  2. Where users want it
  3. What the users need to act
  4. When users are most likely to act

The "most likely to act" window of opportunity is often brief, and in today's world, it's often when people are on-the-go. However, the mobile revolution has equipped users to interact online from anywhere at anytime which presents an entirely new perspective on conversion opportunities. QR codes can be used to bridge the non-digital and digital gap at the opportune time from virtually any location..

10 QRonversion Opportunities

Below I've provided a collection of ten diverse business goals with influential tactics and timely opportunities to leverage QR codes for conversion.

1. Product Comparison Data on Price Tags

Best Buy price tag with QR code

Best Buy leverages in-store use of QR codes on price tags.

Business goal: Sales
Conversion challenge: Increase # of products sold
Industry: Retail, consumer goods, automotive, arms (weapons)

Feature a QR code near product price tags that encourage users to scan and view customer reviews or price comparisons. (Leverage the opportunity to back-up customer satisfaction claims and lowest price guarantees.) Tip: Consider promoting a "Buy Now" mobile option (similar to self-checkout), so customers don't have to wait in line.

"When" opportunities: After attending a demo, in-store shopping, catalog shopping
Barcode content: Link to a product review or competitive comparison page

"40% of US smartphone owners compare prices on their mobile device while in-store, shopping for an item." HubSpot 2011

2. Feedback Surveys on Sales Receipts

Rite Aid receipt with satisfaction survey promo code

Without a QR code, requesting feedback on receipts can lack visual attention, accuracy and speed.

Business goal: Capture customer feedback
Conversion challenge: Increase # of completed surveys
Industry: Retail, hospitality, food, recreation, entertainment

Include a QR code on receipts that encourage users to scan and rate their experience. Feature an incentive like a discount off their next purchase or a lotto contest (i.e. "you'll be entered for a chance to win a ___") to add value for the user.

Conversion tip: Dynamically generate the QR code so that it's automatically encoded with the transaction ID and timestamp to lesson the amount of data a user would need to provide.

"When" opportunities: Immediately after purchase
Barcode content: Link to a feedback survey

3. On-Demand Interactive Video Support

Business goal: Customer support
Conversion challenge: Increase # of video views
Industry: Retail, manufacturing, consumer goods, telecommunications, automotive

Provide on-demand quality support and reduce call center costs by featuring QR codes that encourage users to scan and watch videos for installation or troubleshooting instructions. Display ideas: product guide, manufacturer's product label, product packaging

"When" opportunities: New purchase / product assembly, product troubleshooting / disassembly

Barcode content: Link to a video or video play list

Tip: For product troubleshooting videos, include a call-to-action link to order potential replacement parts.

4. In-House Facebook Like Promo

Facebook Like decal on entry door

Business goal: Brand advocates
Conversion challenge: Grow the Facebook fan base
Industry: Retail, professional services, automotive, health care, hospitality, food, recreation, entertainment, education

Display QR code "posters" on-site that encourage users to scan and "Like" the page on Facebook. Include reasons why following you socially adds value for the user. (i.e. "Like us on Facebook for the latest trends and exclusive coupons.")

Consider display locations where and when the audience is most captive like dental office ceilings or restaurant placemats. Brainstorm clever opportunities to make designer codes out of product packaging or common office surroundings. Display location ideas: waiting room tables, fitting room walls, point-of-sale countertops, shopping bag exteriors, door exits, and window displays.

"When" opportunities: In-store shopping, window shopping, seated in fitting or waiting room, leaving the location

Barcode content: Link to "Like" the Facebook page

"37% of Facebook users Like a fan page to get coupons and discounts." – eMarketer Report, Mar 2010

"64% of consumers are more likely to follow a brand socially after making a purchase." -GroupM Search Report, Feb 2011

5. Facebook Like on Products

Diesel QR code sign: I Like Larkee

Diesel pioneered use of Facebook "Like" in-store with their jean styles.

Business goal: Product advocates
Conversion challenge: Increase # of Facebook product "Likes"
Industry: Retail, consumer goods, food, hospitality

Feature a QR code beside a specific product as a sign or attached sale tag that encourages users to scan and Facebook "Like" the product.

Note: "Liked" web pages can be administrated similar to a fan page within Facebook. You'll be able to post status updates directly to fans of the product (even if they haven't liked the actual fan page). Leverage this targeting opportunity and post periodic product-specific messages to entice purchases with trackable incentives.

"When" opportunities: In-store shopping, catalog shopping, clothing trial in fitting room, reviewing a food menu

Barcode content: Direct link to Facebook "Like" a specific product web page

"68% of consumers are more likely to buy with a positive Facebook friend referral." – eMarketer Report, Mar 2010

6. Google Places Review Posters

Business goal: Local SEO
Conversion challenge: Increase # of reviews
Industry: Retail, hospitality, food, automotive, health care, entertainment

Reviews are a powerful factor of local SEO that also impact click-through rates and sales conversion. Regular reviews are important to show consistent and current quality. Define a campaign that encourages users to post reviews. Design “posters” for on-site use with QR codes that encourage users to scan and review the location. Display location ideas: door exits, ticket booths, table placemats, parking structure columns, and drive-thru yard signs.

“When” opportunities: Entering the location, seated at the location, waiting in line, walking through a parking structure, exiting the location
Barcode content: Link to review the location on Google Places

Note: “Reviews on third party sites offer greater reach and credibility than on-site reviews,” says local search expert Gregg Stewart. Since Google recently removed third-party reviews and listings from their Places pages, directing reviewers to Google Places is likely the best outlet for local search visibility. (Sources like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Citysearch had claimed that Google unfairly used their content.)

“78% of social networkers and 71% of mobile users find consumer ratings and reviews extremely important for local search.”

15miles & comScore Local Search Study, 2010

7. Foursquare Check-in Posters

ISB 'Foursquare Special Here' check-in via QR code

Business goal: Loyalty
Conversion challenge: Increase # of check-ins
Industry: Retail, hospitality, food, recreation, entertainment, health care

Build a Foursquare loyalty program that provides incentives for repeat check-ins and mayorship.
Design "posters" for on-site use with QR codes that encourage users to scan and check-in at the location. Display location ideas: door entrances, point-of-sale countertops, table placemats, drive-thru yard signs, and bathroom stall doors.

"When" opportunities: Entering the location, seated at the location, waiting in line

Barcode content: Direct link to check-in at the Foursquare location (e.g. http://foursquare.com/venue/VENUE-ID-HERE.)

"2 in 5 smartphone owners use their devices from the bathroom." Google Smartphone Consumer Study, April 2011

"55% would check-in to a venue or store via a site such as Facebook or Foursquare to get special deals." Havas Media Social 2011 Social Commerce Survey

8. Interactive Custom Maps

KidPix hypothetical postcard with QR code driving directions

Pictured: Hypothetical postcard with personalized message and QR code link for directions.

Business goal: Drive traffic (literally)
Conversion challenge: Increase # of in-store or on-site visitors
Industry: Retail, tourist site, recreation, education

Advertise QR codes that encourage users to scan and get directions to the location. (Note: QR codes can conveniently leverage smartphone mapping features along with the user's current location to route directions to a specified geolocation.)

QR codes with map links provide a quick confirmation about a destination's location and duration along with a GPS guide to reduce fear of getting lost. Display location ideas: billboards, campus sporting event posters, event invitations.

This presents an exceptional opportunity for off-freeway tourist attractions (restaurants, hotels, recreation facilities, etc.) and off-campus sporting events to lure more visitors. Very large campuses with mapped streets (e.g. schools, amusement parks, fair grounds) can leverage this tactic to promote other on-campus locations or events. (Be sure to test driving and walking scenarios in Google Maps to confirm accuracy.)

"When" opportunities: Driving nearby the location, leaving campus, walking around a large campus, leaving a dining facility, opening a postal mail invite, waiting for baggage at an airport
Barcode content: Link to the geolocation of the site

9. Smart Reorder from Product Labels

Business goal: Customer retention
Conversion challenge: Increase # of reorders
Industry: Retail, consumer goods, automotive

Feature QR codes on product labels that encourage users to scan and reorder product. Product examples: clothing, projector light bulbs, toner cartridges, car parts, vacuum bags, specialty pet food, etc.

Note: For the clothing industry this will require smart e-commerce planning for discontinued items. Leverage such occasions to promote new similar items as alternatives, but also to capture feedback that may influence bringing back previous product lines.

"When" opportunities: Product life is nearly expired

Barcode content: Link to the online product page

"13% of smartphone owners have scanned a barcode to purchase a product with their phone." -Compete Report, Jan 2011

10. Expedited RSVP & Lead Generation

Geico direct mail envelope with a QR code - "Scan for a free quote"

Geico leverages QR codes on direct mail prospecting pieces to generate leads. It also presents a unique opportunity to calculate "open rates" for direct mail.

Business goal: Lead generation and sign-up
Conversion challenge: Increase the # of sign-ups
Industry: Retail, professional services, professional association

Feature QR codes on promotional materials that encourage users to scan and sign-up. The "sign-up" logic could work for entering contests, joining professional associations/LinkedIn groups, registering for events, or RSVP'ing to invites. If you're linking to a lead form, be sure to auto-fill information (if applicable) to save the user time.

"When" opportunities: Upon receipt of a postal mail letter/invitation, tradeshow/expo booth visit
Barcode content: Link to an online sign-up form

Tip: The USPS is offering a 3% discount on summer business mailers that include a mobile barcode. bit.ly/USPSqrcodepromo

Alternative option: Link the QR code to a video that highlights sign-up benefits or "greatest moments" and close the video with a call-to-action link that takes users to the online lead form.

Are you a mobile barcode convert?

Although there's much hype over the fad versus revolution future of mobile barcodes, it seems there's clearly some good opportunities here for enhancing user experiences and improving conversion. What do you think? Is it time to include QR codes in your conversion tool box? Which of these tactics might you consider employing to meet your objectives? Let us know in the comments below!

— Angie Schottmuller

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About Angie Schottmuller
Angie is an Interactive Jedi skilled in the arts of web strategy, conversion, e-commerce, SEO, social media, QR codes, design, UX, analytics, and inbound marketing. She recently defined the new "online marketing" university curriculum for The Art Institutes and has spoken at SES, SMX, and OMS online marketing conferences. She actively curates content on Twitter (@aschottmuller) and regularly contributes to popular blogs including Search Engine Watch, ClickZ, and Jay Baer's Convince & Convert.
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