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It would come as no surprise to marketers and non-marketers alike, that QR codes have been a notable part of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused a world-wide health scare that prompted a mandatory check-in policy across Australia. Most people would agree they have never scanned as many QR codes as they did in 2020.

A QR code, or a quick response code, is a code that is readable by a mobile phone, taking users directly through to a digital page. That page may be a website, a form or a social media page. It is a barcode which stores information as a series of pixels, in either a square or rectangular shape. 

A Brief History of QR Codes

For a short time, QR codes were recognised as the poster child of marketing and soon, became an overused marketing fad. Originating in Japan, QR codes were found everywhere and everywhere. Unlike Japan, QR codes did not gain much traction in Australia. You had to download an app for the technology to work, and as expected in a less technologically savvy world, most people did not know how to do this. Today, it is a built-in feature, connecting directly from your camera to a website. However, those countries that adopted the technology saw that the value of QR codes eroded overtime.

Recently, QR codes have experienced a resurgence while kickstarting a touchless world and recently, caught the attention of popular social media platform, Instagram. Instagram has brought QR codes to the app, allowing users to generate a unique code that will link back to their profiles. However, Instagram is not the only social media powerhouse to adopt this technology. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Spotify all have QR code capabilities, providing a direct, contactless approach to reaching an individual or business profile. 

Similarly, we have seen restaurants leverage QR codes beyond the mandatory coronavirus check-in systems. Many restaurants are using the technology to load their menus instead of using paper versions. Not only does this promote contactless dining, but it is also quicker and cheaper for updates to be made, with restaurants not having to invest in reprinting with menu changes and updates. So, in the B2C marketing world, QR codes are becoming commonly adopted, but what about B2B?

Why are QR Codes of Interest to B2B Marketers?

Many marketing professionals would argue that QR codes have always presented a valuable opportunity for businesses, even before the coronavirus pandemic. One of the technology’s primary benefits is that it connects non-digital mediums directly to digital marketing channels. For example, an advertisement in a print magazine will most likely have a call-to-action, leading readers to a website. At this stage, if the reader is interested, they would have to get their phone, open a web browser and proceed to enter the URL into the search bar. While this isn’t a difficult task for many, it can be time-consuming and frustrating if you make any spelling errors. However, with a QR code, the reader simply hovers their camera over the barcode, and they are taken directly to the webpage. 

From a business perspective, this is attractive for many reasons. Firstly, it improves the user experience by reducing the amount of time it would otherwise take to access a website. Secondly, using QR codes gives businesses the ability to report on some basic metrics, which non-digital mediums wouldn’t otherwise provide. You can access information on how many people scanned the code and what ad they have seen. Ultimately, you can report on what marketing is resonating and optimise future marketing efforts based on these insights. For optimal reporting, link your QR code with Google Analytics through Google’s free Campaign URL Builder. This will give you a holistic view of your marketing efforts and how everything is performing. 

Should my B2B Organisation be using QR Codes?

QR codes should only be adopted to provide potential customers with a beneficial move from offline to online communications. If the prospect is not deriving value, we do not recommend using QR codes. Consider the time, place and privacy of your offline marketing. Many years ago, an organisation in the UK had posters with QR codes in the London Underground when there was no Wi-Fi there at the time. Further, someone may not feel comfortable scanning a code in a busy underground. Ensure these factors are considered before implementing QR codes into your marketing.

So, where are QR codes best utilised? As mentioned, only in offline marketing channels. Most B2B organisations use them in print advertising, or on products and packaging. Others include them on their business cards. There are many ways you can use QR codesDepending on your goals, whether it is lead generation, brand awareness, or simply improving the user experience, ensure you identify what you are trying to achieve. Ultimately, they should be used as a call-to-action, so ensure that your corresponding marketing clearly outlines what you want the prospect to do. The code might lead an opportunity to a lead generation form to download a whitepaper or useful piece of content, or it might be an event registration form. Others use them so prospects can download and save business details such as a contact phone number or location. This would be most useful at a tradeshow or expo. 

2020 has undeniably seen the unexpected return of the once eroded marketing fad. QR codes certainly have benefits for B2B organisations. The reporting aspect and ability to use Google’s URL builder to connect to Google Analytics is a great tool and subsequent tick on the pros and cons list. However, connecting offline media with digital channels is one of the most significant benefits; however, organisations need to address their B2B marketing goals before using technology unnecessarily. For more information on marketing trends, check out our blog: B2B Marketing 2021 Trends.

If you would like more information on this article and how your company can use QR codes or interested in any of our other B2B marketing services, please contact one of our digital marketing consultants.

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