Monthly Archives: May 2011

QR Codes Are Here To Stay

I will admit, some of my more progressive colleagues at Dominion recognized the importance of QR codes far earlier than I. Nevertheless I’ve become a student of this remarkable marketing tool and how it can help car dealers. Why do I find them so interesting and useful for automotive marketing? Read on, and hopefully you will share my passion for them.
What is a QR code? It stands for Quick Response code, and it is a two-dimensional bar code (vs. a UPC code that is one-dimensional) that can contain quite a bit of very rich data. QR codes can carry web site addresses, and phone numbers, but even more importantly they can contain smart data such as detailed contact information, calendar events, and SMS text messaging initiation. When I say that they are “smart” I meant that your phone scans the QR code and knows exactly what to do. If the QR code is for a calendar event, your phone automatically stores it in your calendar. If the code is a business card, it stores it in your list of contacts. If the code is a phone number, your smart phone will dial the number. So instead of just data, or information, the QR code contains “smart, actionable information” that causes a call to action by the smart phone user. And best of all QR codes are 100% trackable. Now what smart marketer wouldn’t love an easy call to action for mobile consumers, that is 100% trackable? That’s it…that is what makes this marketing tool so interesting to me. The QR code seems to only be limited by your marketing imagination.
What do QR codes do that is so amazing? They make print pieces become interactive. They connect print, with mobile, with the internet. With QR codes, your dealership can connect multiple marketing channels…Print + Mobile + Web. Keep in mind that automotive marketers have been putting website addresses, emails, etc. on printed pieces for 15 years. The QR code simplifies this by eliminating the time-consuming and error-filled task of typing a very long web address into the little keyboard on a smart phone. Instead they simply click. This also allows you to make each QR code contain a very unique website address for tracking purposes. We all know consumers don’t want to type http://www.dominiondealersolutions.com/junepromotion/serviceflyer
Are they a fad, or will they take hold? Compete.com conducted a survey in the fall of 2010 and found that 28% of Smart Phone users had scanned a QR code (or other mobile bar code). Only about 1 in 4 mobile shoppers, but the adoption rate is on the increase. QR code scanning software is already pre-installed on Android phones, and likely other makers will follow. Another study by ScanLife was consistent, and found that both one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes scans increased in late 2010. Clearly scanning bar codes with your Smart Phone has moved beyond the early adopter phase.
Why would a car shopper want to scan a QR code? The list of possibilities goes beyond the space available for this article, but here are some examples. To learn more details, or to read reviews about a car. To get discounts or receive coupons on service or other fixed ops offerings. To share interesting vehicle content with their social network. To watch a video about a new vehicle, or about a dealership promotion. To connect to one of your salespeople. To visit your Facebook Fan page. Your printed ads should include a QR code for people to take advantage of your latest coupon in your Service Department. QR codes on your used or new car window stickers, connecting the shopper to more details, a vehicle video, or to contact a salesperson for a test drive.
Once you become aware of these codes, you may notice them when you are out and about. I now seem to see them everywhere. On a recent Spring Break trip to Washington DC, I saw more QR codes than I had seen anywhere. On mass transit, buses, subways, even a QR code in the Smithsonian to download an app to help with the museum tour. The QR code is hard to beat, it just takes a second to scan, yet saves an enormous amount of keystrokes for the user. I now carry a QR code of my contact information, so fellow smart phone users can simply scan the card and instantly have my contact information in their phone. My wife hates grocery shopping, so this has become one of my responsibilities. To make it more interesting, I enjoy trying to save as much as I can through the strategic use of Sunday paper coupons. I’ve been amazed at the recent proliferation of QR codes in the Sunday circular. Typically for calls to action, discount offers, and sweepstakes. Why I even recently saw a picture of Danica Patrick’s NASCAR racecar with a QR code on the hood!
Feel free to contact me if you need additional help or ideas about how to start using QR codes for your dealership, and I promise you’ll begin to see some results.