Reinventing the QR code as the digital handshake

71% of consumers expect personalisation. QR codes provide a digital handshake with fully measurable solutions enabling a properly personalised and effective experience for customers.

From reassuring customers that their products are genuine to prioritising convenience, Hannah Abbasi, Head of Insight at Outform, explains why QR codes are critical for brand marketers and offer prime performance opportunities.

When pandemic lockdowns were first lifted, the QR code emerged as an unlikely winner on the high street. Previous indifference to using QR codes disappeared as device-first consumers headed back into stores and hospitality venues were looking for convenience and safety all in one.  

QR codes are now an effortless way to carry out touch-free payments in a physical environment; and 67% of consumers feel QR codes make their lives easier. 

For brand marketers, the ubiquity of QR code brings a new challenge. It is no longer about trying to persuade consumers to simply scan a QR code to pay or find out more about a product. Instead it lies in reinventing the QR code as a driver of commercial value and a better experience in a new consumer landscape. Here’s why the QR experience today has far more potential tomorrow and in the future.

Content is king

Consumer expectations, which were already changing prior to the pandemic, have now been entirely reset by the ease and convenience of shopping online. Regardless of whether they are shopping online or offline, consumers are looking for utility. In other words, convenience, value and choice.

QR codes can serve as a key tool in delivering utility; they can unlock experiences aligned with new consumer needs to enhance the customer decision journey, but only if the content behind them is contextually relevant.

Outform research found 83% of consumers are using mobile devices in-store. In addition, more than a quarter (28%) of shoppers want little to no contact with in-store staff. QR codes can step in to give customers the support, guidance and advice they want, while also delivering a friction-free shopping experience.

Amazon Style, the online behemoth’s first fashion bricks-and-mortar store, has made QR codes an essential part of its in-store experience. The store gives shoppers every reason to scan QR codes for more content, including gaining access to stock information, customer reviews, and even the ability to bring an item to fitting rooms directly from their smartphones. Content such as size availability and styling information also appear at the exact moment shoppers need it, providing powerful nudges along the journey to conversion in the process. 

Touchpoint innovation

Over 1 billion smartphone users will regularly scan QR codes in 2022. It’s a number that hasn’t escaped tech giants such as Microsoft, which is the latest to embrace QR codes and is now embedding QR code scanning capabilities into Windows 11 too. With the likes of Microsoft exploring the potential to reinvent the QR code at every touchpoint both pre-purchase and post-purchase, it’s clear that this connected experience is unlikely to be confined within the realms of retail.

As connectors to a digital world, advertisers are using QR codes to drive buy-now opportunities and engagement in TV campaigns. Pandora and Ancestry were among the advertisers to trial ITV’s first shoppable TV ads earlier this year, with embedded QR codes allowing viewers to browse, research or buy products with a scan.

Burger King chose to feature a QR code in its TV campaign too, directing viewers to a digital coupon for a free burger, which was only accessible once they downloaded the brand’s app. Browsers on the L’Oréal website, meanwhile, can sample the brand’s cosmetics via a virtual try-on tool available via a QR code, creating an engaging way to test the product in a digital environment.

Innovation around touchpoints is critical if brand marketers are to add value to the overall customer experience. When it comes to post-purchase, QR codes can extend engagement to drive brand loyalty and relationships. 

A QR code added to product packaging or product tags offers consumers an opportunity to access additional information when unboxing, reinforcing connections for consumers when goods bought online arrive at home. In some cases, they can be used to reassure consumers their goods are genuine

The digital handshake

Delivering the information shoppers want when they need it is a win for customer experience. Real-time interaction also has significant benefits for brand marketers. 

Amazon Style’s use of QR codes provides it with a rich seam of data points – including demographic data, extended personal interests, retargeting information, social profiles and locations. Fully measurable, such information will inevitably lead to new insights to optimise the consumer journey according to individual needs.

Another benefit that comes from connecting physical and digital by using QR codes is that brands no longer have to rely on a shopper making it all the way to a point of sale before they can collect data on habits and preferences. Every time consumers scan a QR code, they give a brand an invaluable digital handshake. It’s a win-win, optimising personalisation for the shopper and creating a single customer view for brands to deliver deeper, more meaningful connections, while removing friction in the customer journey.

Over time, it’s easy to see how this could lead to returning customers being met with personalised new product suggestions – based not just on previous purchases, but on previous visits and signs of intent too. It’s likely consumers will respond well as they start to search less and find more based brands anticipating their needs. A McKinsey study found that 71% of consumers expect personalisation from the brands they shop with.

Ultimately the simple but effective QR code has the potential to be a gamechanger in connecting consumers across multiple touchpoints and tipping them over the line to conversion. Fully developed and properly exploited, it’s a versatile tool for adding a digital dimension to multiple marketing touchpoints, driving performance by offering brands a prime opportunity to speak and connect with today’s touchpoints.

By Hannah Abbasi

Head of Insight