Fuel Cycle

The QR Code Renaissance

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A QR code, also known as a Quick Response Code, is a type of barcode invented in 1994 by Japanese auto company Denso Wave. Just like the barcodes we see on products at the grocery store, a QR code stores data and information. The difference between QR codes and retail barcodes is that QR codes contain data that points to a website or mobile application.

QR codes became popular outside of the auto industry for the fact that they could store more information than barcodes and were easy to use with cellular phones. In the early 2000s, as smartphones became the norm, marketers were eager to put QR codes on just about everything. This new and exciting marketing tool seemed like the next big thing, except for the fact that consumers didn’t really catch on.

QR codes required users to download applications on their phone; they often didn’t work correctly and usually sent mobile phone users to irrelevant websites. The general public lost interest in the square codes more quickly than businesses could erase them from their products and print collateral.

However, in 2017 things began to change, and QR codes became an intuitive solution that people were happy to integrate into their daily lives. What spurred this change, decades in the making? Keep reading below to find out.

The QR Code Comeback

Two distinct moments in time proved to be catalysts for the popularity of QR codes. In 2017, Apple updated their systems with the iOS 11 update, which allowed QR codes to be scanned with an iPhone camera alone, with no application needed. Because consumers could now open up their camera, hover over a QR code, and be taken directly to content, any inconvenience or resistance to using the marketing device faded out of view.

The once disgraced tool was now appearing everywhere; from shop windows to restaurant customer check-ins, menus, packaging, advertisements, and contact-tracing apps, Quick Response Codes were back in a big way.

In 2020, QR codes experienced another surge in demand thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. As the nation and the world shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, limiting contact with others and surfaces was imperative. Every retail store and restaurant open disinfected surfaces, pens, menus, and other touch-points around the clock.

Disinfecting sprays and wipes were (literally) wiped off of the shelves, making the cleaning aisle look like a ghost town, and a bottle of Clorox spray worth its weight in gold. During this crisis, food establishments struggled to keep contact down, printing menus on paper, ultimately wasting time and resources. In a year that was already about as strange as it could get, business owners needed a solution to their hygiene problems, and QR codes were it.

A whopping 11 million households were estimated to have scanned QR codes in 2020. In unprecedented times, a “touchless” QR code was invaluable. Between scanning restaurant menus, checking into venues, accessing information, testing and tracing, and even paying touchless, QR codes became the hero none of us saw coming.

Benefits of QR Codes For CPG

As we move into the second half of 2021 and the pandemic winds down, many business leaders wonder if QR codes are here to stay. The answer among marketers is a resounding “yes.” There are numerous benefits to QR codes, and now that nearly all smartphones scan them with a camera, the bottleneck is no more. Some of the benefits of QR codes for CPG brands include feedback capture, support of the customer journey, process improvement, marketing promos, app downloads, and increased web traffic.

Feedback Capture

In today’s ever-changing consumer landscape, capturing feedback continually is more critical than ever. QR codes can help retailers get feedback through surveys quickly to understand buyers and make changes as needed.

Support Of The Customer Journey

QR codes allow businesses to connect with customers at every step of their journey. British retailer Tesco put QR codes on public transport to enable riders to scan and order products on their way to work. Other brands use QR codes to offer product tutorials, educating future consumers about using a particular product before they purchase it.

Process Improvement

Many business processes are improved with the use of QR codes. For example, restaurants can frequently change their appetizers without the need to re-print menus, display digital menus for ordering, and collect payments digitally. There is no need to dig around in wallets for cash or cards; some customers prefer to pay for their purchases with QR codes.

Additionally, the customer service process can be streamlined. QR codes can be used to direct customers to customer care representatives either through phone, text, or online chat.

Marketing Promos

Anytime CPG brands launch a new product or have new sales, QR codes give them the ability to get the word out efficiently. Moreover, QR codes can also be used for exclusive offers as a way to capture shopper information. For example, a retailer could offer 25% off through an in-store QR code that asks for an email address to download coupons.

App Downloads

Although today’s QR codes don’t require an app to be scanned, they can be an excellent tool for getting customers to download your company app. Brands can encourage customers to download their app for easy ordering, curbside pickup, and more.

Increased Web Traffic

With a ‘Scan to learn more’ QR code, CPG companies can drive customers to their website to learn more about a specific product or inquire about home delivery options.

To get the most out of QR codes in 2021 and beyond, businesses need to keep them easy to use, relevant, and beneficial to their customers. To do this, brands should opt for short surveys, actionable landing pages, intuitive customer care options, enticing incentives, quality content, and responsive menus.

With all this potential, we are excited to see where QR codes will take us. To learn more about customer feedback for the CPG industry, check out our blog on the ways that virtual interviews can transform CPG and retail brand experiences.

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