Trends Analysis: QR codes and the eCommerce Experience

QR codes are back and now they’re not a fad. Here’s how to use them to improve your eCommerce experience.

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Trends Analysis: QR codes and the eCommerce Experience

If you thought the QR code was a fad long dead and buried, you’d be wrong. While they may have become a joke in the west, their popularity has continued to rise in Asia. 

Quick response codes are making a comeback, and have the potential to transform the eCommerce experience. Whether you are a DTC brand or a multi-channel retailer, QR codes present a huge opportunity. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of them. 

The Return of QR Codes

The first question to answer is why QR codes are making a comeback in the first place. 

It wasn’t that QR codes were faulty tech, says Wired’s David Pierce.  They were simply ahead of their time. “They required a world where everyone always had their phone, where all phones had great cameras, and where that camera was capable of doing more than just opening websites.” This wasn’t the case when QR codes first came onto the scene, but it’s certainly the case now.  

QR code solutions provider Scanova believes that QR codes make much more sense in 2019 for a number of reasons:

  • Smartphone penetration will soon reach one in two.
  • Virtually everyone (90% of the global population) will have access to high speed internet by 2020.
  • Almost all leading phone manufacturers have integrated QR code scanners into their devices.
  • For those devices that don’t have built-in scanners, many apps provide the functionality.

Juniper Research has quantified the expected growth in QR code usage. Looking specifically at the use of QR codes for coupons, they predict that in excess of 5.3 billion QR codes will be accessed through mobile devices by 2022. This is a fourfold increase in the 2017 prediction as a result of Apple’s decision to integrate QR code reading into the iOS 11 update.

eCommerce Giants Are Already Using Them

Did you know that the country’s biggest eCommerce store is already incorporating QR codes into its online offering? Amazon has created its own version of the QR code, called a SmileCode.

The codes are very similar to traditional QR codes, writes journalist Thuy Ong. The only difference is that they can only be used by Amazon customers and accessed through the Amazon app. These codes have been tested in pop-up stores and Amazon Lockers across Europe, before rolling out to the U.S.

At the moment, Amazon’s QR codes will take you from a magazine to an Amazon product page, writes TechCrunch’s Greg Kumparak. That probably won’t be the case for long, however. Chances are we’ll see Amazon add the codes to its product packaging, too. “Amazon has turned its boxes into ads more than once before (with bright yellow Minion themed boxes back in 2015, or the red Greatest Showman boxes from a few months back); these codes could give them a consistent, repeatable way to turn those boxes into a clickable link of sorts. And if you don’t care to scan it? Then it’s just another Amazon logo on the box,” Kumparak explains.

Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba is also using QR codes, says retail reporter Dominic Powell. At one of the company’s retail pop-up stores in Melbourne, objects in a staged apartment were tagged with QR codes that when scanned took consumers to the site’s relevant product pages. 

Even TV networks are implementing eCommerce-focused QR codes, reports Catherine Shu at TechCrunch. NBCUniversal is using a feature called ShoppableTV that directs TV viewers to eCommerce stores when they scan QR codes during shows. 

How QR codes Can Improve the eCommerce Experience

Take a leaf out of Amazon’s book if you want to use QR codes to improve your brand’s eCommerce experience, suggests Brian Klais, CEO at Pure Oxygen Labs. Like Amazon, your brand could include QR codes in print catalogs or other forms of advertising that direct consumers back to your website for more information, reviews or other in-depth content like video.

You could also include QR codes on your product packaging, says Mofluid cofounder Roberto Garvin. These can be used to educate customers about the product and encourage them to repurchase products when they run out. 

QR codes can also be used to improve the back-end of your eCommerce experience by replacing traditional payment methods, notes the team at Chargeback Gurus. In doing so, the credit card data that hackers seek is removed from eCommerce company servers. Instead, data never leaves the customer’s phone. 

With QR codes, everything is trackable, too, writes Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes. Just like your website, all online activity can be tracked, including where and when users interacted with your codes. “When it comes to gauging the effectiveness of real-world marketing assets like billboards, flyers and print ads, being able to close the loop like this is exceedingly rare, not to mention exceedingly valuable,” says Holmes.

Connecting the In-store and Online Experience for Multi-Channel Retailers

Perhaps the best thing about QR codes is their ability to connect offline experiences with online ones, and drive online sales, writes Rebecca Sentance at Econsultancy. “Used well, and in conjunction with a mobile-optimised landing page, QR codes can grab consumers at the exact point where they have shown interest in an ad or video and get them signed up for an email, tempt them into making a purchase, or engage them with an app,” she explains.

The inclusion of QR code readers in smartphones allows both retailers and consumers to address showrooming, writes the team at Absolunet. This is the practice of shopping in a physical store before buying online. With a QR code, retailers can encourage consumers to make an online purchase then and there in the store, while having the product delivered to anywhere in the country. 

It can also be used to scan and redeem coupons or other promotional offerings for use in-store or online, says Wily Global’s Nicolina Savelli. For DTC brands, displaying an advertised coupon in QR code form — one that takes the user directly to checkout — could be the difference between being a soon-forgotten ad and one that leads to a sale.

Zara is one of the brands leading the way when it comes to QR code adoption. First, the fashion brand integrated QR codes into price tags, which take consumers to a landing page that includes available colors, sizes and manufacturing details. More recently, the company has installed QR code readers into one of its London stores, reports Saurabh Bhaumik at Scanova. This allows online customers to collect their package in-store, without having to wait in line. If ordered before 2 p.m., packages can be collected the same day.

Don’t Use QR for the Sake of It

QR codes may have been a fad once, but that doesn’t have to be the case the second time around. 

You just need to have your priorities straight when integrating QR codes into your eCommerce offering. The focus should be on improving the user experience, writes Digital Marketing Analyst Iris Hearn. That means the codes should be accessible, optimized for and relevant to the user.

In other words, make sure you are using them to improve the shopping experience for your consumer, and not just because they are eCommerce’s next shiny object — again. 

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