Archive for the ‘Industry Research’ Category

Survey on Digital Print Production Issues Released – And It’s Free!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Want objective input on the production and quality challenges still being faced by digital printers and the resources required to overcome them? Unisource and WhatTheyThink recently released a joint Digital Printing Survey that will tell you. Best of all, it’s free!

Among the topics covered:

  • Services and equipment offered
  • Digital equipment and revenue
  • Variable data work
  • Digital print quality
  • Digital vs. offset
  • Factors impacting press / image quality

The list goes on. Basically, everything you want to know about the status of the industry. It also comes with expert commentary from What They Think’s own Dr. Joe Webb.

You can download a copy here.

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 2

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By: Irving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In my post last week, I reviewed a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands”. Let’s consider how this article translates into the Printing Industry…

How can a company making printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Become comfortable with your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses – and be able to talk to your potential clients about them.  If a competitor’s equipment can generate 20-30% more copies per minute than yours, and costs the same, the client may argue that their equipment is more productive and you will lose the sale.  But if the client has post-printer finishing need that cannot be done in-line at the equipment’s rated speed the productivity premium may be eliminated.  In fact, using a “faster” print machine may create a total production time slower than your solution.
  • Understand your client’s entire workflow – See the example above.  Understanding what your client’s workflow is, from creation of a print product, through printing, finishing and even delivery, will allow you to build a solution that specifically meets your customer’s needs.  If your client is in no rush to create the booklets to send to its clients, there is no need to provide the fastest piece of print equipment.  If they need documents as quickly as possible, then identify where, in the current process (pre-print, print, finishing) there are the most problems and develop new solutions that meet the client time needs.
  • Have a solid implementation plan, and a fail-safe – Have a solid plan for equipment delivery, connection to print servers and networks, installation and testing.  If the solution is not working to the client’s expectations and requirements, have a fail-safe in place to ensure that the client’s bottom line is not negatively impacted due to your equipment or solutions issues.
  • Have training and mentoring solutions in place – We’ve all been in situations where we buy a piece of equipment or a product and then have to learn how to use it.  Using the Internet has made things a little easier, but, as an organization, do you want your customers to learn how to use your equipment by seeing what someone else does on the Internet?  Identify your client’s most important needs and requirements of the equipment and solutions you are providing and ensure they know how to use your equipment or solution to meet those needs.  Develop focus groups with other users so that they can share issues between themselves (with input from your organization) to develop new solutions they can all use.

The new world of sales is changing in this information-rich environment.  Be sure to use all of the tools your organization provides to provide your potential customers with all of the information they will need to buy your products, services and solutions.  Providing as much information as possible to your customers gives them the power they need to make decisions that meet or exceed their requirements at the most cost-effective price.

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 1

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

ByIrving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In February 2014, a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands” identified the reasons that consumers are starting to abandon their prior reliance on brand loyalty in purchasing products.  The use of online information to shop and compare items, and to listen to other purchasers on the pluses and minuses of products is now the way most customers buy products.

For established brands, this makes selling products at a premium price an increasingly difficult thing.  If you are selling a product that is superior to other producer’s products, then you may charge a premium price.  But performance numbers are quickly matched by other producers, and often there is a number of products that are so similar that it is difficult to identify them sitting side-by-side outside of their brand names.  Past performance is no longer a selling point for many consumers; what the product is and how it performs NOW is what is critical to the purchaser.  There are two situations where this isn’t true – when the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product or where the brand confers status (think Louis Vuitton).

For the consumer, the information age means they are making better buying choices (hopefully), and competition has improved quality and lowered prices. It also means that upstart companies find it easier to compete with established producers.  If you make a product that works well at a competitive price, you will quickly become the next Asus, Roku, Hyundai or Kia.  We have gone from stable consumer markets to tumultuous ones, but if you can make a great product, the world will beat a path to your door (or store website).

Let’s look at the sales situation that is a bit outside of this “new” sales paradigm – where the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product.  In the past, Coca Cola was a brand synonymous with this type of product.  Wherever you went around the world, if you purchased a Coca Cola, it would taste exactly the same and it would not make the consumer sick (because the water was pasteurized in the bottling process).  World travelers really built the Coca Cola brand, and as world economies improved citizens of the world had enough ready cash to buy one bottle of Coke.  Coca Cola has such a foothold in the US and other countries that they have increased market share in consumable beverages using their bottling companies if not their Coca Cola syrup to provide regional and local beverage favorites in every country they have a bottling plant.

So how can a company making copiers and printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others? Check back next week for a couple of solutions!

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

Publishers: Multi-channel Means “Print First”

Monday, February 17th, 2014

A study conducted by WoodWing Software, a multi-channel publishing system developer, found that when publishers think multichannel, they think print first.

In the study, WoodWing surveyed a total of 125 participants, mainly from the Americas (38%), Europe (54%), and the Asia-Pacific region (8%), asking about their publishing strategies and the use of social media.

The majority of respondents (59.2%) favor a multimedia approach. No surprise there. Specifically, they favor a combination of print, web, mobile, tablet and social media.

More surprising, however, is that, in today’s age of social media and email marketing, the plurality (21.6%) favor a “print first” strategy. Only 5.6% favor a web first approach, 4.8% favor a mobile first approach, and a mere 1.6% favor social media first.

Look at that — print wins again.

The study was conducted from mid-December 2013 to mid-January 2014. It consisted of four multiple-choice questions. Respondents were mainly from newspaper, magazine and corporate publishers as well as advertising agencies and marketing departments.

PODi reviews PRISMAprepare

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

PODi recently independently reviewed the Canon Océ PRISMAprepare workflow suite and authored case studies and product briefings on these workflow solutions. The overview from PODi:

“Canon’s Oce PRISMAprepare simplifies and streamlines document make-ready processes to efficiently compile, correct, personalize and program print applications. This includes various layout and tab programming, spine printing, color splitting and releasing to production presses. While it can be integrated with other software packages, PRISMAprepare can also be used as a completely self-contained stand-alone make-ready solution.”

PODi completed their analysis by posting a series of podcasts reviewing PRISMAprepare capabilities including:
• Document Editing
• Page and Image Editing
• Personalization
• Make-ready Automation

For more information – visit PODi’s site here.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated Web-to-Print Solutions

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Want to learn how to keep your print services on top within the fast-paced marketing community? If so, InfoTrends’ Kate Dunn offers insight and recommendations on how to adapt and automate print services for your clients. Sponsored by the PressGo program of Canon Solutions America, this webinar gives you the information needed to bolster your online business.

You might be asking, “What are some of the web-based market models out there?” For starters, there is the standard Ad-hoc Send-and-Print, which most printers already have in place. This allows the customer to upload a single file, receive a cost estimate, and send the file to print. The Catalog and Template based models mainly surround business communications, sales and marketing collateral, and direct mail, which are customizable to certain degrees. The holy grail of models is Process Automation, which integrates an enhanced supply chain with fully customizable print ordering.

OK, let’s apply a model to a real-life scenario. With an automated template process system, a realtor can sign-in online, choose a business card template, select copy that pertains to his property sales pitch, send the card to print, as well as have the business cards packaged, postmarked, and mailed to recipients. Accomplished all in a series of clicks without having to juggle communications with a number of service providers.

Let’s review: why are automated print services so important? Well, InfoTrends predicts that 40% of all printed materials will be procured over the Internet in the coming year. Customers are asking for automation services in order to streamline their supply-chain and maximize profits. In short, web-based automation adds value for both you and your clients. Today’s marketing supply chain consists of multiple, interconnected suppliers that an organization relies on to produce materials (print, promotional, and point-of-sale) to market their products and services. It’s astonishing, however, that 70% of businesses surveyed have no way to track or predict obsolescence within their supply chain. The last thing any client wants is a loss of control over their brand! That’s where a web-based approach is applied to fix the gap. Some of the benefits include: customer access 24/7, increased print accuracy, reduced customer service workloads, and enhanced volume production. Sounds like a nicely packaged offer to me.

If you want the complete list of benefits, the stats, and further insight into web-to-print solutions, view the webinar here:

Interested in Learning about NFC Tags?

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Happy New Year to all! Now is a time to make resolutions and innovate. For those of us in the print industry, one of our resolutions likely involves making traditional print more interactive.

In this Printing Impressions webinar sponsored by Canon Solutions America, moderator Lisa Cross talks about where Near Field Communication (NFC) tags fit in accomplishing this goal. If you’re like me and you’ve wondered what NFC Tags are – this is the place to learn. This webinar defines NFC technologies, shows how they are creatively implemented, and provides statistics from recent studies of their success.

Let’s jump to the content. Lisa introduces Matthew Bright, the Chair of NFC Forum’s Retail Special Interest Group and the Technical Marketing Director of Kovio, who focuses on the importance of NFC technology and provides examples of its use. To complement Matthew’s expertise, Nate Mullikin and Jill Krueger from Corporate Graphics International tell their company story and provide interesting examples of print interactive products and solutions.

To set the scene, Lisa highlights how technologies have emerged to combine traditional print and digital media to maximize the communication experience; a combination referred to as ‘tradigital’. Like most of us know, the key challenge in navigating the tradigital space is reaching an audience that now has control over the media they consume. In an Infotrends study, Lisa points out that 47% of printed marketing materials were linked to online and digital channels. Specifically, mobile use is the fastest growing channel within spending distribution. Therefore, a market for NFC solutions exists to cut through the communication clutter and to make strategic connections throughout campaigns.

Building off of Lisa’s introduction, Matthew describes how NFC is a ‘magical technology’ for interactive print. There are three main cases of NFC use, but the focus of this presentation surrounds the ‘touch to learn more’ concept. The ‘tags’–or stickers—connect printed material to multimedia content uploaded onto the cloud. The stickers can be adhered to posters, mailings, and even embedded into product packaging. For example, with a NFC sticker on a wine bottle, the consumer can then touch his or her phone to the tag, which links to tasting tips and optimal meal pairings on an online interface. It takes a view from print to digital in mere seconds.

Nate and Jill add to the discussion by citing how Taylor Company has adopted the use of NFC technologies in the solutions they provide their clients. From networking with customized business cards to the creation of interactive digital booklets & registries, NFC technologies offer an enhanced gameification of brand, product, and services.

This blog really just touches the surface of NFC technology. Take a deeper dive and be sure to check out the webinar here:


 

Tapping into the New Cross Media

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

It’s a loud, busy world out there. With so much information available, getting your voice heard is a challenge for any company. For mailing, print, and fulfillment providers, cross media marketing is really vital right now.

A well thought out cross media campaign is one of the best ways to communicate any message clearly, consistently, and in a way that’s relevant to the hearer. Keeping up with cross media marketing trends is an important component of your ongoing success – and that of your clients.

Are you having trouble connecting with customers?

Learn how you can use cross media marketing to better communicate with customers by downloading “Tapping into the New Cross Media,” FREE for The Digital Nirvana readers!

Take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilnk.me/NewCrossM; your customers will appreciate your dedication! Do you have any comments or opinions on cross media marketing or customer communication? I’d appreciate your feedback below!

Are You Selling 1:1 Printing for Its Efficiency?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

When we think about data-driven printing, we think about elevated response and conversion rates, we should not forget to promote its benefits for cost savings, as well. These savings can come in hard costs such as the ability to reduce postal costs through co-mingling and in soft costs such as labor reduction, reductions in calls to call centers, and improving cash flow.

I ran across the great case study from XMPie recently that talks about these “hidden” cost savers.

Time Magazine Europe wanted to increase subscriptions, and it also wanted to improve the customer experience when subscribing to the magazine. So it partnered with Latcham Direct (UK) to drive respondents to personalized URLs where they could sign up themselves.

Thirty percent of people responding to this campaigned used the personalized URLs.

When people responded using this channel, not only did this improve their customer experience over the impersonal, disconnected process of sending back forms by direct mail, but it helped Time’s bottom line in three ways:

  1. It reduced the costs for the manual input of subscriptions coming in from direct mail cards.
  2. Conversion rate for personalized URL responders was 75%, reducing the cost of follow-ups.
  3. Cash flow is improved since the subscriptions are processed more quickly and readers get into the system earlier.

To date, this campaign has reached more than 1.6 million people. Because the response rate via personalized URL was so high (30% of people responding), the cost savings reaped by the company were significant.

How could your clients use a similar model to reduce costs?

Personalized URLs were created in XMPie PersonalEffect and metrics were tracked by UProduce Marketing Console.

What Printers Should Talk about Online

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

As I mentioned in my previous post, research shows that many business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of their purchase process is complete. It’s Marketing’s job to influence that 57 percent of the market opportunity before Sales contact, to position your company as a thought-leader and to make sure that customers don’t get locked into a requirements definition that locks you out of the sale. Since the majority of that process occurs on the web – or from colleague’s referrals based on what they have seen on the web, how you talk about your services online makes a big difference in potential sales success.

There are many ways to present your company online:

  • Your own website and blog (you do have a blog right?)
  • Partner sites and blogs
  • Company page on LinkedIn (or Facebook if appropriate for your business)
  • LinkedIn Groups for target vertical markets or print procurement
  • Pinterest (if you have interesting visuals)
  • Comments on news and industry sites

The Advanced Content Marketing GuideOnline content (on your website and beyond) should position your company as a source of answers. Think about using content marketing in the form of articles, white papers, case studies with response metrics, Youtube videos and design tips rather than just posting lists of services and equipment. (See the Advanced Content Marketing Guide by Neil Patel and Kathryn Aragon – it’s FREE.)

Consider how customers and potential customers will use your website. Ideally it should be a draw for prospects while keeping existing customers coming back for new information – thereby exposing them to your new offers. Keep in mind that most real prospects are not going to come to your site due to a web search for your services. Web searches may be common for other industries and products – but research shows that print buyers use printer’s websites to validate a printer based on a personal referral or because they saw interesting content published by that company somewhere on the web. To meet their needs, make sure that your online content does the following:

  • Educates – provides interesting solutions to industry problems like reducing customer churn, meeting new regulations or serving different market segments. Provide thought provoking information to ensure that key requirements are included in the customer’s solution definition.
  • Validates –shows your ability to deliver services in a quality manner and scale to meet customer demand. This may include information on plant and equipment but should also include information on quality programs, customer service and company culture.
  • Activates – provides methods for taking action such as registering to download whitepapers, requesting a quote, or emailing key staff. Consider promoting dialogue by allowing visitors to post questions or share experiences. You can make certain areas for customers only to promote community without exposing information to competitors.

Don’t get locked out of a sale before you even know that a buyer is on the prowl. Make sure your online presence extends beyond your website and that you are talking about the things that matter: your customer’s market, the customer’s needs and your unique understanding of both.

 

Elizabeth GoodingElizabeth Gooding is the President of Gooding Communications Group and editor of the Insight Forums blog. She writes, presents and provides training on trends and opportunities for business communications professionals within regulated vertical industries.

10 Trends to Define Marketing for 2014 – 10 Experts Weigh in

Monday, November 4th, 2013

As we approach 2014, and all of the marketing challenges that come with it, SourceLink is rolling out our “Ten Trends to Define Marketing” series again, with a twist. This year, we sat down with ten industry experts and asked them what trends they anticipate in 2014 and the years to come. We will be rolling out these articles over the next six weeks – Here are the experts that we sat down with, and a brief synopsis of what they had to say:

1. Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News – “The Virtuous Cycle of Customer Centricity” – Oct 29

Into 2014, consumers will wield the power to dictate how they are marketing to, and marketers are tasked with creating content that is driven by consumer preference. Understanding customer behaviors and preferences will lead to sophisticated micro-marketing campaigns, and marketers will then be tasked with modeling content creation and communications strategies based on how content is being utilized.

2. Judith Hemmel, Vice President of Customer Intelligence, SourceLink -  “Moving From Creepy to Credible” – Oct 31

An overarching theme through several of the interviews is was the extreme importance of mobile marketing. Consumers now have the ultimate choice of whether to engage with a brand, cultivating an environment of permission. This phenomenon will further strengthen the move from push to pull marketing, and messaging must move from “Creepy to Credible.”

3. Skip Henk, President and CEO, Xplor International – “Sitting on the Sidelines or Taking the Leap of Faith” – Nov 5

Human behavior is the true game changer in 2014, and there is tremendous value in how customers allocate their time to take in new information.  Augmented Reality, a still-emerging technology, very well could lead to a print revival. Marketers will fall into two categories in embracing these new technologies, those taking the leap and those sitting on the sidelines waiting for more proof; which Skip sees as the “winners and the losers” in the fight for customer attention.

4. Bryan Yeager, Financial Services and Mobile Payments Analyst for eMarketer–“Social Media and Mobile Craft a Path to Purchase” – Nov 7

Mobile penetration reached a tipping point in 2013, and looking into 2014, past trends converge because of the smartphone and its ability to enhance the customer experience. Marketers using social media up until now have merely been laying the groundwork for the real opportunities for engagement and conversion. Wearable technologies bring flashy new avenues to truly connect with customers.

5. Roehl Sanchez, VP and Chief Creative Officer, BIMM Direct & Digital - “Data Drives The Creative Process, and the Modular Builder Emerges” - Nov 12

Data begins to drive creative decisions, and creative decisions facilitate the use of data. We are entering age of real time marketing, and the definition of marketing and advertising “Creative” is shifting, especially when it comes to mobile design. Marketers must familiarize themselves withmicrocampaigns and start thinking mobile first. The creative professional must start to be a “modular builder,” and embrace a shift toward strong creative rooted as much in functionality as in design.

6. Rich Brown, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, SourceLink –SOLOMO and the Evolution of Location Based Engagement” – Nov 14

Social plus location plus mobile (SOLOMO) will a gamechanger in 2014, as marketers truly perfect geofencing technologies and make actionable use out of location data using offer-based engines. Data use concerns and privacy legislation gain lots of attention in 2014, and marketing organizations rally to support the responsible use of data. Marketers start to effectively link return on investment between offline transactions and social engagement.

7. John Foley, CEO Grow Socially and CMO InterlinkOne– “The Amazing Powers of Personalization” – Nov 19

2014 will see BIG advancements in mobile technology, which will allow for in-store personalization and other amazing interactions. A surprising amount of companies are still behind the content and social engagement curve in 2013, and will evolve into more social businesses in 2014, with more content being distributed than ever. Personalization sees a surge in the depth and relevancy, paralleling advancements in marketing automation.

8. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs – “Organizing your Company Around Content and the Emergence of Short-form Media” - Nov 21

Marketers have been making content creation a priority, but next year will see a need to allocate resources to dedicated personnel. Next year’s trend will be a wider adoption and need to understand short-form content. Social media engagement leads to emotional connection and a better brand experience. Print remains a crucial part of marketing spend, and continues to claim significant portion of marketing budget.

9. Cindy Randazzo, Vice President Strategy and Insight, SourceLink – “A World Where IT and Marketing make each other Stronger” and  “Multisource Attribution in an Omnichannel world” – Nov 26 and Dec 3

Cindy had so much to say that we will be covering her thoughts over two articles.  First, 2014 brings the realization that IT and Marketing cannot be siloed, as their strengths will make each other stronger and will account for the weaknesses in the other, as the “right and left brain” come together. Big Data becomes relevant for all industries, as it is mined for interests, and used for multiple forms of variable advertising. Consumers start to ask the question “How is it possible that you don’t know who I am?”

10. David Burstein, Fast Company contributor and author, “Fast Future: How Millennials are Shaping our World.” – “The Marketer’s Role to the Millennial” – Dec 5

Companies must make consistent strides towards social responsibility and innovation as core tenets to developing as an organization. “Millennials” (those born in the second baby boom years of 1980 to the early 2000s) have become the most messaged-to generation ever, and marketers embrace emerging technologies and develop new means to stand out. Deep customization stands as central to the communications experience between marketers and Millennials.

To read the entire series, keep checking back to the SourceLink blog here.

The Big Potential of Big Data: A Field Guide for CMOs

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

If you haven’t downloaded a copy of “The Big Potential of Big Data: A Field Guide for CMOs,” it’s worth your time.

Put out by Rocket Fuel and Forbes, it’s a free 22-page report based on a survey of 211 senior marketers designed to gauge their perceptions about the success of their marketing initiatives, as well as their use of and the benefits of big data.  Granted these were bigger companies than most of those in this industry (revenues of at least $500 million and marketing budgets of $10 million or more), but it supports the trend line and will give you great talking points with your customers.

(Download the report here.)

Key data points from the survey:

  • Of the organizations that used big data at least 50% of the time, 60% said that they had exceeded their goals. By contrast, of the companies that used big data less than 50% of the time, just 33% felt they had.
  • More than nine in 10 companies (92%) who had “always” or “frequently” made sufficient use of data said that they had met or exceeded their goals, while just 5% who said that they were making sufficient use of data said that they were actually falling short.
  • Eight in 10 (79%) marketers and advertisers who use big data more than 50% of the time felt they were able to pick out the right audience in all or almost all of their media. This compares with just 35% of those who used it less than 50% of the time.
  • Of those who use big data to drive more than half their marketing strategies, 75% said that they were able to monetize their audience.
  • Likewise, 75% believe their company is making the right media buys, compared with just 50% of those who use big data in less than half of their programs.

There is lots more, of course, but what’s interesting is the focus not just on reaching customers and increasing revenue, but undersatnding customer behavior, including the channels most effective at reaching them.

Also interesting about this report is how it is interwoven with personal interviews and mini case studies that flesh out these issues and put the data into a real-world context.

Check it out.

 

Tell Your Clients! Data on Affluents Affirms Print Usage (Good News for QR Codes)

Friday, September 20th, 2013

2013 Ipsos Affluent Survey is yet another “voice” in the chorus of those affirming the value of traditional print in the role of influencing consumers.  By extension, this supports the importance and use of QR Codes as a response mechanism.

The study found that there are now 62.5 million U.S. affluents (defined as adults aged 18+ living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income). This is up more than 6% over the past two years. In addition to all of the other compelling data in the study, one of the most interesting is that affluents are still voracious consumers of traditional media, including print.

According to the research, 81% of affluents read at least one of the 142 reported print publications (135 magazines and 7 national newspapers) covered in the study. Coupled with the growth of the affluent population, Ipsos found that the number who read a print publication rose to more than 50 million globally. This skews significantly higher among affluent women, “ultra affluents” ($250K+ HHI), and wealthy consumers ($500K+ HHI).

For example, Affluents read 16.7 issues from 7.4 different titles, but Ultra Affluents read 22% more titles (9.0 vs. 7.4) and 29% more issues (21.6 vs. 16.7). The skews are even more dramatic among Wealthy consumers, who read 45% more titles (10.7 vs. 7.4) and 62% more issues (27.0 vs. 16.7) than Affluents. Compared to Affluent men, Affluent women read 16% more titles and 17% more issues.

We are seeing more and more QR Codes in magazines. In fact, according to “Scan Response Rates in National Magazines” (Nellymoser 2012), in Q2 2012 every magazine in U.S.’s Top 100 magazines contained at least one mobile action code during that period. In addition, 10% of magazine pages contained a QR or other mobile barcode, up from 5% one year earlier. All but ten of the magazine titles printed 10 or more codes in the quarter. I have no doubt that this has risen since then.

Affluents like traditional print, and there are more QR Codes in print. This means that, disproportionately, affluent consumers are being exposed to — and using — QR Codes to interact with print advertising and, by extension, print marketing materials.

As affluents continue to interact with traditional media and as their use of mobile channels continues on its upward trajectory, do we have any doubt that QR Code use will grow along with them?

 

Research: Not All Designer Codes Created Equal

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

According to research released by the AIDC Lab of Ohio University (part of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology), not all designer codes are created equal. While QR Codes have error correction, allowing up to 30% of these codes to be degraded or altered while rendering the codes still readable, it matters where this degradation takes place.

You can remove, alter, or degrade certain portions of the code while retaining readability but not others.

Although the full research study has yet to be released, the AIDC Lab has released a white paper outlining the main issues and the results.  The goal of the paper — to answer the question: “What sort of design modifications can be made while still ensuring the maximum number of people will be able to scan the symbol?”

In general, there are three ways to alter QR Codes to incorporate a branded symbol or other design:

  • Change the color
  • Insert a graphic design inside the physical design of the code
  • Geometrically distort the cells used to create the code

“While all of these work, it is important that the designer understand how the QR Code works so that they do not inadvertently damage key components or push those components beyond their ability to adjust,” write the authors of the paper.

For the study, more than 200 codes were scanned. In total, 166 responses were usable. Depending on the types of distortions used, researchers found that scanning would product different results. Ignoring the benchmark symbol, for example, resulted in read rates ranging from 9.6% to 88.6% — a huge range.

The implication of this is that, at best, 11% of the symbol’s target audience will not be able to read the bar code. And for almost half of the symbols 50% or more of the scanning public will not be able to decode the designer QR Code.

This a fascinating study that anyone involved in 2d barcode design, branding, and marketing campaign develop read. Before your designers start messing with the codes, thinking they can add branding as long as they degrade 30% of the code or less, make sure they know the facts.  You can download a copy here.

On a completely unrelated note, I grew up in Athens, Ohio, where Ohio University is located, my father taught, and I spent much time on campus. This is the first time I’ve heard the university mentioned in connection with this industry, so this was really fun research to run across. Go Athens Bulldogs!

Survey Says: QR Code Use Falling . . . NOT!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I keep hearing a common refrain: QR Codes are going away. Consumers aren’t using them. They are out-dated. They are being replaced by more sophisticated technology. Blah, blah, blabbidy blah, blah, blah.

The fact is, the data just don’t support those statements. ScanLife just released its Q2 2013 barcode trend report and once again — just as in all of its previous trend reports — QR Code scans are going up.

Consider these numbers:

ScanLife Historical Line

  • Q2 2013 saw 4 million new QR Code scanners worldwide
  • Users scan QR Codes 3x per month — up 22% from the previous quarter.
  • Scanning from tablets has increased by a whopping 1300% from one year ago.

The number of people scanning QR Codes is up. The frequency of scanning is up. Scanning is spreading across mobile devices.

Clearly, the use of QR Codes as a response mechanism for marketing campaigns is not going away.

So where is this idea that QR Codes are going the way of the Model T coming from? I can’t say for sure, but my belief is that it’s coming from the industry chatter about the poor use of these codes combined with a heavy dose of personal disdain (for one reason or another) and supported with data that shows the percentage of smartphone owners who have scanned these codes ranging from 10-30%. Naysayers love to quote the low percentage of smartphone owners who scan these codes.

But the fact is, I would imagine that the percentage of people who call the 800 number from a direct mail piece is really low too. (I can’t remember the last time I called an 800 number that wasn’t customer service.) But I don’t hear anyone suggesting we should putting 800 numbers on direct mail pieces. QR Code use is growing. Frequency is increasing. Use across devices is broadening. Don’t take my word for it —listen to the data.