QR codes for exceptional in-store customer experience
2020 certainly delivered some surprises. One was the resurrection of the QR code, which went from being a quaint-but-clunky marketing device in the early 2000s to a slick, touchless solution, invaluable in a 21st-century pandemic. How can they help you?
What is a QR code?
The QR stands for ‘quick response’, and a QR code is the small, square, phone-scannable barcode you’ll increasingly find in shop windows and restaurant customer check-ins, menus, packaging, advertisements, and contact-tracing apps. A quick scan of the code takes you to online content.
QR codes were developed in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, a Japanese automotive engineer. Noticing that car component boxes could have up to 10 separate barcodes, Hara wanted to streamline the process by creating a single, bigger 2D barcode that could hold much more information.
Why QR codes briefly fell out of favor
QR codes moved from industry into the global mainstream in the early 2000s, coinciding with camera phone technology, and appearing in commercial settings where the public could scan them with their phones. But, apart from the faff of downloading a separate QR code-reading app onto your phone, the codes themselves frequently didn’t capture properly. And when they did, more often than not they would lead to web pages that were:
- Not optimized for mobile
- Slow to load
- Too sales-pushy
A bemused and unimpressed general public lost interest in QR codes, which, for a decade, sat abandoned and unscanned, seemingly redundant in many parts of the world.
The QR code renaissance
Then, two things revived the QR code:
- iPhone’s 2017 iOS 11 update: people could now scan QR codes using just their phone cameras – no app required
- The 2020-21 coronavirus pandemic: in the socially-distanced, locked-down world of Covid-19, the touchless function of QR codes was invaluable. Whether scanning restaurant menus, checking into venues, accessing information, testing and tracing, and even paying touchlessly, the QR code came back into its own.
How QR codes can improve in-store customer experience
In addition to safe, touch-free interactions, you can offer your customers the best experience possible by helping them access what they need through QR codes, provided:
- you offer fast, reliable WiFi throughout stores
- your content team delivers exactly what they want via each QR code
- Your online/offline experience is seamless
QR codes can:
Collect feedback from customers
Enhance your omnichannel journey
With QR codes, you can connect with customers at every touchpoint of their journey, and gather valuable data about their end-to-end experience.
Streamline the restaurant experience
Even when your business is closed, a QR code in the window can provide valuable information for customers, without the need to drop flyers or print off reams of menus. The code can:
- Provide information about opening to drive future footfall
- Display digital menus for selection and ordering
- Allow you to change menus easily according to season or availability
Blend the online/offline store experience
In South Korea, British retailer Tesco introduced a virtual store where busy commuters scan QR codes of their most popular products, order, and their goods are delivered to their homes that evening after work.
Contact customer service
An important part of the customer experience is being able to get through to a representative who can help with issues. This could take the form of a Call QR code to speak to a contact center rep, or a Text QR code to send a message. QR codes can help customers to be put through to help desks, or provide a ready-drafted message or email templates for the customer to fill in and hit Send.
Encourage app downloads
Although QR codes don’t require sign-up or an app, you can encourage your customers to download your own app using a QR code. Burger King made a QR code central to its ad campaign to order through the BK app.
Help customers navigate
QR codes on advertisements can use location services and Google Maps to guide customers to the nearest store. And once inside the store, other QR codes can direct purchasers to specific areas of the store and stock. L’Oreal even placed QR codes on its in-taxi advertisements to capture customers sitting in traffic queues.
Offer discounts and coupons
Give customers immediate access to special offers, discounts and coupons through an in-store QR code.
Facilitate cashless payments
No need to rummage about in wallets for cash or cards, some customers prefer to pay for their purchases with QR codes wherever they are in the store. Walmart and IKEA use this technology within its app to enhance its shopping experience.
Increase traffic to your website
Want to know if a garment is available in another colour? Need to know how long an appliance’s warranty lasts for? By placing ‘Scan to learn more’ QR codes around the store, customers can easily access everything they need to know about a product. They can even order it for home delivery there and then if it is out of stock in the store.
Getting customers to use QR codes
Because QR codes are visible, and are becoming more widespread, there’s a danger that they simply blend unnoticed into a store’s background ‘wallpaper’ and customers stop interacting with them. Just because they’re everywhere doesn’t mean customers will use them.
Customers tend to give QR code feedback about a ‘current’ situation, e.g. they’ll complain about bananas being out of stock, but are less inclined to answer a generic ‘how was your shopping experience here today?’
With this in mind, here are our tips for increasing QR code response rates:
- Place the QR code after the cashier: Once a customer completes their mission at a store, they’ll be more interested in giving feedback
- Keep the survey completion time within 3 minutes: there’s a high drop rate after 5 minutes
- Use a conversational style of questions to engage with customers
- Set an option to close the loop: Where there is a concern, you can contact the customer to resolve it. Taking this opportunity to engage also drives continued response.
- Communicate the actions the stores are taking based on the feedback: ‘thanks to your feedback, we’ve ordered more bananas on Fridays’
With all this potential, we’re likely to see QR codes becoming part of the fabric of customer experience for a long time to come.
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