I have the feeling it won’t be long until the question of whether or not a small business should be involved in mobile advertising will become passé as well. Mobile devices are ubiquitous. The quality of the screens, the graphics and the audio and visuals that can be delivered is improving all the time. It’s simply too good of a two-way message delivery instrument. It’s both persistent and it’s personal. SMBs should be taking full advantage of it.
Besides mobile also directly addresses a couple of other major issues that keep SMB owners up at night. Now that they all have websites, the constant struggle becomes “selling on the web” and “reaching customers”. However, a decision to fully embrace a move into mobile actually addresses both of these concerns. In particular, mobile presents an excellent opportunity for SMB to engage with customers and, in particular, moving them from offline to online. And there is an old and unjustly ignored standby device that SMBs can bring out of the mothballs to do it.
Because of mobile advertising, what was once an old marketing option has become new again. I’m talking specifically about QR (quick response) codes. QR Codes are the only real “world standard” providing the opportunity to connect offline to online using mobile devices. The understanding and the ability to interact with QR Codes is also already present. Almost one billion end users have already downloaded a QR Reader application into their devices.
Another reason, SMBs would be wise to take a fresh look at the use of QR codes for customer interaction campaigns because the codes themselves are undergoing a significant transformation. They are becoming prettier. They are losing the goofy box look. They can be incorporated (hidden) within the graphics/artwork of an advertisement yet they don’t lose a single byte of the code’s operational qualities and scan-ability. Up until now, it was easy to ignore a QR code lost in the corner of an ad, and that is why they were generally considered ineffective.
Technology is available, at little or no cost, which seamlessly converts part of any image or graphic into what’ known as a “Visual” QR code. This technology makes it much easier for small business to embrace, maybe for the first time, the use of QR Codes. As the next generation of QR codes, Visual QR codes have become a more effective means to bridge the gap between print or online advertising and mobile users.
Visual QR codes can go wherever SMBs choose to place them (newspapers, magazines, websites, and even t-shirts). The good news is that dropping QR codes into graphics is proving to generate an increase in the number of “scans”. It’s these scans that produce customer action. The scan then takes the mobile user to wherever the marketer wants them to go (web URL, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Google Maps, etc.). The kind of marketing campaigns you can build using Visual QR Codes are endless. They can be based on the marketer’s imagination or astute knowledge of their customers. Just ask yourself, what would your customers like to receive when scanning a code?
- Promotions: The use of Visual QR Codes to boost in store traffic is effective for SMBs as well as huge corporations. Visual QR Codes can be used much in the same way as coupons to promote both in-store and online shopping.
- Customer Retention and Engagement: Place a Visual QR Code by the checkout counter or on your home pace and allow customers to scan for membership in a VIP club. Or connect them to a fun electronic game that can be played on their smartphone. Earn points or gain status for special deals. Utilize Facebook for scans to solicit customer testimonials and to make “likes” or “shares” as easy as possible. Smart smartphone marketing utilizing Visual QR codes gives your campaign a chance to go “viral”.
- Visual QR Code Sweepstakes: If you walked into a store and they told you that you can receive an extra discount by scanning a Visual QR Code and that one in every 100 scans walks out without paying a cent, would you scan?
In the immediate future, Visual QR Codes can help small business bring its entire “store” to the mobile consumer. Posters or even entire wall displays or online pages depicting your products can be scanned for purchase and delivery right on the spot through the smartphone. Imagine someday doing your grocery shopping on your way home during a commute. In fact, this is exactly the opportunities QR codes are providing consumers right now in South Korea. SMBs also use QR codes like crazy in China and the other Asian Pacific markets.
So what do these markets know that SMBs in the United States should? Visual QR codes make a statement. Marketing opportunities are improved now that any design, image or logo can be turned into creative, distinctive and expressive QR Code. Having the QR code woven into the fabric of ads is more attractive and inviting for customer interaction. All you need is an image, such as a company logo, and it can be transformed it into a fully working, designed Visual QR Code in a manner of minutes. It does not require knowledge of how QR codes work. But in the new smartphone era, work they do.