Today, brands must find new touch-free, virtual methods to engage with audiences. As a result, QR code adoption has accelerated as maintaining physical distance is a new health imperative, but the need for immediate information and making purchases is still just as prevalent. Making experiences safer for consumers is what this last year has been all about.
Four years ago, when I first wrote about this topic, the landscape was significantly different, “QR codes didn’t live up to their original promise. You know, those smartphone-readable codes that became prolific around 2000, with an array of black and white squares, usually storing a URL or other scannable information. Why didn’t they work? They went backwards with their idea. Everyone has seen or heard the now classic quote from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Well, not exactly…many companies built QR code scanners, but there were two major barriers to adoption. They needed to acquire users and teach a habit, and provide a value proposition to consumers for downloading the app. Then those consumers needed to be enticed to scan a weird looking code. That added up to a lot of work for a small pay-off and consumers simply did not buy in.” Well, I guess consumers didn’t need to be enticed, they needed to be forced. During the pandemic, you couldn’t go many places to order coffee, food, see a menu, etc. without scanning a QR code.
Fast forward to 2021, and we see that integrating a code into an everyday app or experience IRL that consumers view, works. Likely because it’s our new reality as people have adopted the QR code in their daily lives. According to the OAAA, 2021 Trends in OOH research, 31% of adults 18+ are using QR codes more now than before the pandemic and 41% of adults 18+ became interested in special sales available via QR codes.
JLO Beauty used a QR to direct consumers straight to a point-of-purchase for products. (MTA Transit Shuttle, New York City)
Marketers now have the opportunity to engage customers at unexpected points in the consumer journey, where interactivity or personalization had not been widely possible before, like outdoor media. CPG brands are using QR codes as a means for audiences to discover features, tips, and special offers. In tandem with Jennifer Lopez’ Times Square new year performance, she launched her new beauty line, JLO Beauty, on NYC’s Subway Shuttle. The Flowcode scanned to a JLo Beauty Flowpage, giving consumers the ability to directly shop an array of products from her skincare line, see exclusive content, share their contact info and follow her social accounts, all in one seamless mobile-first landing page experience.
The on-the-go and grab-and-go ease of scannable content is a perfect complement to the Out-Of-Home advertising space. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, 86% of consumers visited the grocery store once a week or more and 50% of consumers visit retail stores once a week or more (Harris Poll 2021).
And the opportunity of the IRL big, creative canvas works to “inspire desire” of the “I want it now” moment, while also safely getting information that’s needed to you as a consumer. The QR code ensures you can have it, and you can have it now. Instant gratification is a hallmark of today’s culture; it’s no wonder QR stands for Quick Response.
OUTFRONT’s internal campaign engaged with transit commuters by providing a QR code to determine whether users were naughty or nice, along with a photo gift to accompany your fate.
OUTFRONT partnered with ABV Gallery and Nifty Gateway to bring one of the first physical NFT exhibitions to life in Atlanta, and to showcase NFTs and crypto-art on digital assets in Boston.
Taking what typically lives in the digital universe and bringing the experience IRL on digital OOH assets, provides numerous experiential opportunities for artists and beyond. A recent release of NFT art was memorable not just because it was one of the format’s first physical exhibitions, but also because it was one of the first out of home activations associated with the artwork. Commuters had the ability to purchase NFTs directly from creative through a QR code that was displayed on street-level assets. Anyone passing by had the chance to purchase the artwork - giving people the opportunity to purchase in their hometowns across the United States due to travel restrictions for buyers due to COVID-19.
Reborn in lockdown, the QR code has been relearned and brands are jumping on the trend. Every leading platform is hopping on the scan-craze band-wagon, whether it’s scanning QR codes to purchase products, scanning to receive a discount code, or scanning to play along with a game on your commute. Brands now understand this is a great way to get information across with a limited canvas, and even attracts the consumer to take one more step to find out more.
Goody App used an exclusive QR code to give consumers 15% off of gifts just in time for Valentine’s Day. (New York)
With QR continuing to serve as a universal delivery system, many consumer exchanges can now be launched from mass-reach media like out-of-home, and engagement data can be measured and reported anonymously and in real-time. We are living in the era of scannable content through our mobile devices, while on the go and safely moving around. Life is moving fast and so are you. OOH media is all around you and you can’t scroll by it. As scannable content continues to grow, no other media form can really provide a canvas for them to live IRL like OOH can!
*This article has been updated from its original post in May 2017.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.