When QR codes first came out in 1994, they were nothing more than a gimmick for consumers and a waste of time for marketers who didn’t quite realize their potential. It was an awkward new invention whose benefits weren’t entirely clear.
More than a decade and a global pandemic later, consumers and marketers alike can now see the untapped benefits of QR codes. QR codes have proven to be an automatic, practical marketing technology, as well as a way to provide contactless services while respecting social distancing rules. We’ll discuss how QR codes can be used strategically to provide contactless benefits to consumers and some of the advantages and risks of using QR codes in marketing.
Since the pandemic, there has been a massive increase in QR codes across industries, as they minimize the risk of coming into contact with germs by encouraging touchless systems. Here are some popular ways that marketers can leverage the use of QR codes.
Digital banking and contactless payment solutions are thriving in 2021, and you should be thinking about how to get your business on board. QR codes in payment apps and automatic invoicing software are a must-have to streamline the checkout process.
You should look for payment and invoicing apps that come with crucial features such as multiple payment options and the ability to generate automated invoices. And since all customers have to do is use their smartphone cameras to scan and pay, QR codes are a great solution to deliver immediate payment options to customers. It reduces friction and makes the whole process from discovery to purchase easy and convenient.
Loyalty programs are great for retaining customers. But people rarely remember their account numbers, meaning every time they go to the checkout counter, they have to present loyalty cards and earn points manually.
To save time, what if your customers could earn points directly at every purchase automatically? Paying in-app through a QR code makes it possible for customers to earn rewards, which is a great strategy to show appreciation and encourage loyalty. You can also incentivize repeat customers to participate in surveys to earn points, which offers a good way to learn about your customers’ opinions and needs.
You might have created a perfect app for your business, but not everyone will go to the App Store and search for your company’s name to download it. Instead of customers having to search for your brand, QR codes make it easy for them to scan and click to get the app directly on their phones.
All they have to do is scan the code you provide in your marketing materials, and it will directly open the relevant app marketplace for downloading. This is a smooth way to offer a seamless user experience as you promote your business with mobile technology.
Since the pandemic, people have been extra careful about coming into contact with shared objects. With QR code scans, customers can now access touchless menus in restaurants without contacting the waiters or menu cards.
Digital menus can give your customers an option to scan the QR code on a physical menu to view the digital version on their phones. And many restaurants now simply use a tabletop sticker with the code and abandon physical menus altogether. If you’re still using paper, it might be time to update your menu to the benefit of your restaurant marketing.
You can also paste posters on walls and windows where people can quickly scan the QR codes from their phones. Putting these posters on the outside of the building or at partner establishments is a good way of marketing your restaurant and getting people inside. This presents a sort of virtual business card for your restaurant, and you can create different designs to present different seasonal options or discounts.
QR codes have a lot of uses, but the threat of security and malware issues can make them risky. As you scan them using your smartphone’s cameras, cyber-criminals can infiltrate your phone with malware by leading your browser to an infected website. It is also a real possibility that when scanning the QR code, you trigger a malicious download from a third-party infected website.
Malicious attackers can misuse QR codes by leading users into a phishing scam. Once users scan the code, they’re led to a scam site, making it possible for attackers to steal login credentials and private information. They can then access all your accounts connected with your phone, causing irreversible damage.
However, since QR codes offer numerous benefits for marketers and consumers alike, companies should take measures to protect their consumers’ data and minimize the risks involved in QR codes exploitation. Consumers also need to check the URL when they scan QR codes, and any URL that looks fishy should be avoided.
It is also preferable to use a VPN when scanning QR codes, or when using any third-party website in general. According to cybersecurity expert Ludovic Rembert of Privacy Canada, a VPN is the most effective strategy for encrypting business and customer data.
“A Virtual Private Network (VPN) may sound complicated, but the idea is pretty simple,” says Rembert. “A VPN is a service that creates a virtual tunnel of encrypted data flowing between the user (that’s you) and the server (that’s the internet). The bottom line is a VPN hides your information from spies, hackers, snoops, and anyone else who might want to steal and monetize your information.”
During the era of work from home, you should be making use of a VPN anyway. If you are not already, you should invest in a VPN to protect your remote devices - including your mobile phone - so you can both work and browse with greater peace of mind.
Think of QR codes as an additional strategy in your digital marketing toolbox - to get the maximum benefit, you must use it the right way. Remember, customers want immediacy and efficiency, but not at the cost of losing their personal data. Hopefully these tips can help you devise strategies to use QR codes in your business to benefit customers and create safe yet engaging marketing strategies.