You’ve seen them. Those black boxes on magazine pages, billboards and products that look like descending aliens from the old school arcade game Space Invaders. Though QR Codes are not space invaders, they have quickly invaded the marketplace as an effective tool to help consumers find what they are looking for.
QR Codes, short for Quick Response Codes, are an open source technology developed by Denso Wave Technologies. QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes used to quickly represent relevant information through an encoded hyperlink. Though they hold the trademark for the term “QR Code,” so far, Denso has allowed everyone to use the technology at no cost. Consequently, many QR Code generators exist.
QR Codes vs. URLs
A QR Code is included on product packaging to make it as easy as possible for in-store shoppers to go directly to desired informational content about a given product.
The use of QR Codes is preferable to URLs in this scenario for these reasons:
- The shopper is seeking information on a specific product. To minimize abandonment, the shopper must be taken directly to a landing page about that specific product.
- A QR Code takes the shopper directly to a landing page about that specific product without any "stops" along the way.
- Scanning a QR Code is simpler, faster and less prone to user error (e.g., typographical errors) than typing in a URL on a smartphone.
- Using a unique URL on each product (e.g., http://www.yourwebsite.com/productname) would enable the shopper to be directed to the product's landing page, but it’s more cumbersome, time consuming and prone to errors than scanning a QR Code.
- Using a generic URL on each product (e.g., http://www.yourwebsite.com) would require the shopper to (1) type the URL into a smartphone, (2) reach a Home Page, (3) click to navigate to the product he/she is interested in. This forces the shopper to take steps that are otherwise unnecessary and pulls focus from the shopper's intent: learning more about a specific product.
Why is this important? Because smartphones and QR Codes have altered the way people shop and make purchase decisions.
Smartphone User Behavior
Smartphones are owned by nearly 50% of those with mobile phones. Nielsen Mobile Insights Smartphone Penetration Report released in February 2012, showed that 49.7% of U.S. mobile phone owners own smartphones. It also reports that in the last three months, 2/3 of mobile phone buyers purchased smartphones over "dumb" phones. This shows that smartphone penetration continues to accelerate.
In January 2012, Chadwick Martin Bailey released research indicating that half of all smartphone users have scanned a QR Code at least once. Among the users, 46% were curious to see what it would do, while 41% scanned the QR Code to obtain more information about a product/company/topic.
A comScore MobiLens report released in August 2011 found that of the mobile users who scanned a QR Code, 35.3% of those users scanned a QR Code found on product packaging. It was the second highest area where QR Codes were scanned. In case you are wondering, QR Codes found in print magazines and newspapers were the number one source of scans.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported on January 30, 2012 that 52% of mobile phone owners used their phones in-store. Here are the reasons for use:
- 38% of cell owners used their phone to call a friend while they were in a store for advice about a purchase they were considering
- 24% of cell owners used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store
- 25% of adult cell owners used their phones to look up the price of a product online (comparison shopping for the best deal) while they were in a store
Here's what happened after the smartphone/Internet was consulted:
- 37% decided not to purchase the product at all
- 35% purchased the product at that store
- 19% purchased the product online
- 8% purchased the product at another store
We’re curious, what’s your take on the value of using QR Codes on product packaging? Do you think these marketplace invaders are here to stay?