Sometimes it’s good to mix pleasure with business. I’m a big motorcycle enthusiast so when I started seeing QR codes in a motorcycle magazine this spring I thought I’d take a look and see what this consumer-driven industry is doing with the technology. Keep these results in mind as a backdrop when thinking about using QR codes (or not) for your print materials.
In the magazine (roughly 100 pages) there were 20 ads with a readable barcode of some type or a prominent vanity URL and CTA. The vast majority of these ads did not link to anything even remotely useful. Here is a catalog of the main issues found.
The links found in the different ads were:
- 15% (3) Vanity URLs only, no barcodes
- 70% (14) QR codes
- 15% (3) Microsoft Tag format codes
If you want traffic, you need to use technology that your users already have. The industry leader is ScanLife. Note, however, that only 5.7% of internet users have ever scanned a QR code (12.8% of smartphone users – calculated using standard smartphone penetration and assuming that all scans come from smartphones).
Takeaway: use the industry standard, but don’t expect huge volumes.
The best practice when using QR codes is to also include a cut-down vanity URL. This URL should not be exactly the same as the QR code because it won’t have the same amount of tracking data in it, but it should not simply be the corporate home page. Best practice is a microsite devoted to the ad campaign in question. What did we find in the motorcycle industry?
- 10% (2) had no URL at all
- 10% (2) had a vanity URL
- 80% (16) had just the corporate URL
Not good, marketers. This industry seems to be suffering from a lack of planning because providing a vanity URL really is not a lot of additional cost once a QR campaign is set up.
Ok, so you’ve beat the odds and one of those precious QR code scanners has arrived at your destination. The arrival may even be a marketing professional who also happens to like motorcycles (it can happen)… what will you choose to show him?
- 10% (2) don’t show at all as the destination is a Flash-based site
- 65% (13) dump the user onto a desktop site (non-optimized for mobile)
- 25% (5) have a mobile-optimized experience waiting for the user (three of these are dedicated microsites, the other two are corporate home pages)
Now, to be fair, the Flash sites did not use QR codes, they had just the vanity URLs however, what are these marketers thinking? Magazines are portable… the chances of reading one when sitting in front of your laptop or desktop are small. In the mobile world everything needs to work on mobile technologies.
The next 65% of links are essentially garbage. If I see your ad and bother to boot up ScanLife to look at it dumping me on your non-optimized corporate home page really is not the experience I was looking for.
Only 25% of these ads (and remember, they are essentially mobile-only links) end up at mobile optimized content, and only 15% (3) actually related back to the original CTA in the print ad.
Let’s say that again for effect… only 15% of the mobile-linked ads in this analysis actually link to a mobile-optimized property.
Do it Right or Don’t Bother
The main cost of linking print ads to online destinations is not the QR code or the vanity URL, it’s providing a relevant, optimized destination for the engaged visitor. There is great insight available once a print reader jumps onto the digital destination:
- Print publication and date
- Ad version (including A/B testing)
- Call to action
- Time and date of the linkage
- All activity taken once on the digital property
If you do decide to enable print to digital linkages in your ads, don’t squander the opportunity by making the same mistakes the motorcycle industry seems to be.
How about you? Do any readers have QR success or horror stories?
If you’re interested in Klick Health’s view of QR codes you won’t want to miss: