Friday, 4 November 2016

Can Messaging Apps Make QR Codes Useful to Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

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If you ever scanned a QR code, chances are it was a while ago. QR codes flirted with relevancy a few years back, but never quite hit the tipping point of mainstream. The QR-code premise was simple: users scan digital markers, akin to bar codes, using their smartphones. The code can then pull up coupons or other information.
For marketers, this was a perfect addition to a digital marketing strategy. By offering users the opportunity to be where their users were, brands could provide an enhanced, immersive user experience that ensured they could help when they were most needed.

Despite their obvious utility, however, QR codes languished. Most annoying for users was the necessity of downloading a separate app just to scan the code, since Apple and Android phones aren’t preloaded with the ability to scan them.
QR
Moreover, even when users did pass the hurdle of downloading a QR reader, the subsequent experience was mixed. QR codes might direct users to a poorly optimized mobile site with difficult-to-access information. Value was similarly spotty: if a QR code simply links to an easily accessible brand page, then the code offered nothing different than a typical web search.
Worse yet, users might not make the connection to the brand at all. In a famous Heinz boo-boo, the company put a QR code on a ketchup bottle for a contest, but accidentally let the domain lapse. Users found themselves unwittingly pointed to a porn site, the Guardian reported.
It’s not often a shunned technology manages to stage a comeback. But take notice, digital marketers: thanks to messaging apps, QR codes may manage to avoid the fate of giant laser discs and Betamax tapes.
Messaging apps may spare QR codes the fate of giant laser discs and Betamax tapes.
Messaging apps Snapchat and Kik have been using scannable codes to help users connect with their friends—but now, these popular messaging apps are upping the ante as pieces of marketing technology. Brands can partner with the apps to create codes and then place them wherever consumers may be in the real world—whether on a billboard in a subway station or in a store. When users scan the code with a mobile device, they unlock special content.

Messaging Apps and QR: A Match Made in Tech Heaven
Why are messaging apps such effective solutions to the QR-relevance problem? First, because they eliminate the fuss of downloading an extra app, while also providing the assurance that any content delivered will be on a familiar platform. Snapchat, for example, is already on many users’ phones, and it’s easier for users to scan a code from within an app they already use frequently. Most Snapchat users understand how Snapcodes work already, lessening the learning curve for scanning codes in the wild.
Perhaps most important is the undeniable fact that Snapchat is cool. QR codes never had that cache; but messaging apps offer the right amount of oomph.
For brands that wished QR codes had made it big, this code revival offers a new opportunity to meet consumers on the go. If users start to use scannable codes regularly, that’s another vehicle for brands to connect.

The Scannable Brand
If messaging apps in China are any model, the US could soon be very code-filled and scannable. WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app with over 700 million users, integrates codes with its WeChat Wallet feature, offering users surprisingly useful features. According to ClickZ, users can do anything from buying movie tickets to paying utility bills: they simply scan a code, and the amount is deducted from their wallet. The most sophisticated brands offer additional features on the platform, including hospitals that allow patients to make an appointment or restaurants who offer ordering via the app.
Back in the States, scannable codes aren’t nearly as ubiquitous. But things are changing, and digital marketing strategy is changing along with them.
Together with ad agency Kinetic USA, Universal Pictures used Snapcodes to promote the movie The Girl on the Train. The billboards, located in subways in major US cities, feature a large Snapcode and a question: “What happened that night?”
girl on a train snapcode marketing
At first glance, it isn’t obvious that the billboard is a promotion for a movie. For the Snapchat newbie, it wouldn’t be obvious that the code is even scannable. Instead, the billboard plays to commuters’ curiosity, giving them something potentially interesting to explore while waiting for their own train. For the movie campaign, the codes took users to special geofilters, Ad Age reported.
Netflix used a similar device to promote its Gilmore Girls revival series. At over 200 pop-up cafes, the streaming service served coffee in Gilmore Girls-inspired cups that included a Snapcode. People could take a pic of the code to get a special Gilmore Girls filter, Adweek reported. Snapchat said the one-day campaign reached more than 500,000 people.
In a different twist, messaging app Kik uses codes to connect users with branded bots and other unique customer experiences, thecompany notes. For example, users of the Victoria’s Secret PINK bot can scan Kik Codes in their dressing rooms to get bra fit advice—a feature that will appeal to shoppers who feel awkward about leaving their dressing room to ask for help. Victoria’s Secret, for its part, gets more data about the people who shop at its stores.

What’s in QR’s Future?
One drawback to these updated QR codes is that they are app-specific: Snapcodes can only be scanned by Snapchat users, and the same for Kik Codes. But the exciting part of this marketing technology is the real-world engagement. Users encounter the codes in the wild, proactively choose to scan them, and engage with the content. Brands looking to add codes to their digital marketing strategies need to understand the nexus between where and why a user would scan a code to interact with a brand. A code can be handy in a retail situation, but it also can be a boredom-busting device for captive commuters. For brands willing to invest in the technology, the benefit is in the enhanced engagement rates—users can’t just absorb the content like a preroll ad, they have to take action in order to unlock it.
The rising use ofmessaging apps promises to make codes more prevalent. But as with any emerging marketing technology, the key is harnessing it to provide a tangible benefit to the consumer.