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Why content – and not just couponing – is key to QR codes

August 6, 2010

Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing at Vestcom International

Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing at Vestcom International

By Jeff Weidauer

Take a poll of chief marketing and merchandising officers for major U.S. retailers and chances are that many would have no idea what a QR code is or how to use one.

While consumers are responding to QR codes popping up in magazines inviting them to learn more about products, this activity is being driven more by manufacturers than retailers.

In truth, consumers – or more accurately, shoppers – are driving the mobile Web and connectivity phenomenon.

To date, there is no strong influence from retail putting any emphasis or resources against this consumer trend.

Retail detail
A recent white paper from Forbes Insights makes the point that nearly half of retailers want to gain first-mover advantage in the mobile space, although we have yet to see this intent manifest itself at the shelf. Marketers should be embracing this opportunity for two reasons.

First, consumers today are using mobile technology and QR codes. This is an activity that is only going to gain acceptance and raise the expectation from shoppers.

Second, the growing preference by shoppers to use their mobile devices as a practical tool is an opportunity of historic proportions.

The mobile device is no longer a novelty. Its time as a necessary component of our daily lives is here. As marketers we should be including it in our plans, indeed even building plans around it.

There is one word that should always be part of the marketing lexicon: targeted.

Pervasive connectivity via personal mobile devices can provide back-end analytics that 10 years ago we only dreamed about, if we could dream that big.

QR codes are driving this connection now by providing a painless portal to additional information and offers.

This shift will not be painless, though.

QR to cue her
QR codes are currently being used to deliver mobile coupons, which will kill interest pretty quickly.

Mobile is a new medium, and using it to deliver an old idea such as a coupon, or even just a repurposed television spot, will drive shoppers away in short order.

The personal nature, always-on connectivity and location-awareness of mobile devices should inform our thinking as we learn how to use them to their fullest.

The critical element to successful use of QR codes and mobile is content – relevant, engaging and motivating content that attracts and persuades the viewer. Providing this means having a clear understanding of the consumer, implying that we need to be smarter about her than ever before.

As marketers, we have a unique opportunity to rethink how we connect with the consumer.

Mobile and QR codes allow one-to-one connectivity that is relevant, engaging and motivating for the shopper.

Making the most of the QR code opportunity will take investment, imagination and fortitude, but the payback will be incredible.

Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing at Vestcom International, a Little Rock, AR-based provider of technological retail services. Reach him at

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