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US: Making the most of QR codes

They’re everywhere you turn — tiny and sometimes unusually large bar codes that have the appearance of Lilliputian crossword puzzles. They’re on billboards, store shelves, newspaper and magazine pages. And now they’re beginning to populate the packaging and are working their way into the marketing of nearly everything we purchase.

TRUETRAC-QR-CodeThese minuscule quick response codes, or QR Codes for short, are becoming an important part of the brand-owners marketing efforts — but there’s a problem on the horizon. Unless we make QR codes "sticky" – and  that means interesting, exciting, surprising and stimulating —they’ll stop being used. In sort, QR codes will quickly become a passing fad, and that would be shame.

Typically, there are two types of content that can be found when scanning QR Codes:

Static: Static content is not very sticky. It rarely changes and usually takes the user to "companyname.com" where there’s no corresponding messaging or call-to-action. It’s certainly not relatable to where the QR first appeared to the person who scanned it. Even worse, the visual display or user experience is often not optimized for a mobile device or smartphone.

Dynamic: Dynamic content is much stickier than static content and can have a real impact on the customer experience — and ultimately your sales. In the world of produce, dynamic content means giving the customer meaningful information that is unique to the product in their hand. Such information might include a video of the grower talking about sustainable agricultural practices; the date and geographical location the product was planted and harvested; along with an interactive map; or maybe specific food safety details or a treasure trove of recipes that’s always growing.

As you can imagine, when it comes to fresh produce, dynamic content is harder to create, because it must be specific to each item and therefore requires a data collection process during harvest, for example. On the upside, the pay-off in customer relations and revenue can be substantial.

Traceability pilots and projects completed at TRUETRAC have collected thousands of consumer email addresses, which have then been able to drive targeted marketing messaging, for example. Another project was set up with similar products on the shelf, with one labeled at the item level and one that was not. The retailer charged more for the traceable item and unexpectedly saw an increase in throughput at the cash register. Customers were willing to pay more for the traceable items, and picked them more often.

The stickiness of a QR code determines if consumers will keep coming back. For this to happen, there has to be a reason for them to come back, and that reasoning depends on a pair of factors - content and experience.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions worth trying.

Dynamic is better than static: Currently, most QR Codes take the user to passive and mostly static content. It’s useful stuff, but once they’ve looked at it, they don’t need to go back to it because it rarely changes. This is the first observation: Your content must change on a regular basis. You could just point the QR code to companyname.com and leave it at that, but that’s not sticky. Consumers are looking for something of value, something new, a surprise — maybe even a bonus. It could be recipe suggestions that are frequently updated or interesting information about the farmer and farming practices. Maybe it’s a discount coupon off a related product. In order to encourage them to keep coming back, the experience and content have to be great. Dynamic content could include harvest details describing exactly where a specific item was grown, when it was harvested — maybe with a detailed map showing the location. You might even include a warm message from the specific farm worker who picked that item.

Optimize the user experience: How do you avoid consumer QR Code phobia? Ideally when a consumer scans your QR Code, the content is not only interesting, but it appears instantly on their smartphone. Many parts of the technology supply chain are out of your control, but designing a web experience specifically for a mobile device that comes up fast with well-designed content – that’s something you can influence. Not many folks are going to look at your great content if it takes forever to appear on their phone.

Simple scanning: Your content must be accessible with a generic QR code scanner. Having an app for your company may serve specific needs, but consumers don’t want to use a different scanning application for each brand as they walk around a store. We use a scanner from I-nigma, around the office at TRUETRAC – it’s generic, very fast and easy to install on both Apple and Android-powered phones.

Location absolutely matters: It’s most important that the QR code be strategically placed on the consumer packaging where it’s easy to see. In addition, the code should be presented in a location that provides easy access for scanning. That way, consumers will be able to scan the code more easily — without the risk of damage to the produce. Consider making the QR code a centerpiece of your branding by placing it on the front or top of the product. And don’t assume everybody knows what to do with a QR code. It wouldn’t hurt to include a few simple instructions on how to scan the code and the benefits someone will derive from doing so.

For more information:
Tel:  +1-800-548-1901

Publication date: 6/11/2012


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