QR Codes: What Are You Really Tracking?

By | October 26, 2010

These days, lots of people are talking about QR codes. Everybody loves the code. In addition to the fact that they connect the worlds of print and the Web, many printers promote them for their tracking capabilities. Here is how one shop writes about its experience with QR codes:

The way [our customers] are interested in it is that we can supply tracking information every time this code is scanned. So, basically it lets our customers know where in the country, or world, it is being scanned, as well as how many scans per day on any day of the week. So it really gives them important marketing information. If it’s getting a lot of scans on the east coast and not the west coast, they can shift their marketing dollars accordingly.

What I want to address is what is really being said (or not being said) here.

Yes, tracking information is supplied each time the code is scanned. But what is actually being tracked? It is not the number of eyeballs on the advertisement, the brochure, or whatever marketing piece you’ve created that utilizes the code. It is simply tracking the number of people who scan the code. Thus, these numbers may say more about your target audience than they do about the campaign itself.

In other words, unless QR codes are the only response mechanism, it is not the equivalent of the number of views, clicks, or anything else. It is a measure of the extent to which mobile-savvy viewers with data plans and QR code readers are responding to the ad. That’s a narrow audience.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually be a good thing, depending on your target audience and the goals of the campaign. But it’s important not to confuse what’s really being measured here.

Likewise, it’s very helpful to know where in the country the code is being snapped more. It tells you how to help allocate your marketing dollars. If you have triple the scans on the East Coast than in the Midwest, that tells you something about how your target audience is responding to and interacting with marketing information. That’s important. But again, it tells you about the success of the QR code component of the campaign. It doesn’t tell you anything about the success of the campaign itself.

This is another reason to include multiple response mechanisms in most promotional campaigns. Not only do you want to know how the code compared to other response mechanisms (how many people snapped the code versus clicking through the URL? how many responded by tear-off mailer? by phone?), but you want to get as many people to respond as possible. Tracking QR code use is only giving you a very small sliver of the picture.

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5 thoughts on “QR Codes: What Are You Really Tracking?

  1. Geert Venhuizen

    We are a company in the Netherlands, offering Executive Direct Marketing services to our clients. We do use QR codes for our clients and we have actually used personalized QR codes on some occasions. So, not only do we measure that the code was scanned, we actually measure WHO scanned the code.
    So far, I have not read anything about the use of personalized QR codes.
    Did I miss this, or are we just that innovative? 😉
    Happy to hear your thoughts and view on the above.

  2. Joseph Manos

    Heidi – great post!

    My concern for all of the service providers running out and using QR Codes is that they don’t always have a plan for what they are atentping to achieve and deliver for their customer. Your post further illustrates this area of concern.

    Without an overall strategy for the campaign and a multi-media approach you are going to miss a great portion of potential responders. I could speak to the best practices and use cases for QR Codes but we don’t have enough space for that today but if anyone is interested they can email me their request.

    Another key point on QR Codes is that only 35-40% of the phones in use today are QR Code capable so this impacts the scope of responders as well. This will change rapidly over the next year but it has to be factored in the overall strategy and target audience.

    Finally, for Geert our company and our customers have been using Personalized QR Codes for some time with great success. Our last campaign achieved a combined 25% visit rate for all marketing touches and the Personalized QR Codes represented 20% of the overall visit rate.

  3. Marty Thomas

    I think the QR Codes have a long way to go in the States. But was more and more people begin to use and understand the technology, it will provide an increasingly effective way to cut the the clutter. I know when I see a QR Code somewhere my curiosity perks!

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