For over a decade, QR codes have been that small square of random black and white digitized designs you see on everything from signs to product packaging. But with the popularization of smartphone technology in combination with societal changes such as a global pandemic, we are seeing QR codes resurge in popularity and utility amongst consumers. In this article, we will dive into what QR codes are, why we are seeing a recent surge in consumer use, and the future of QR codes in direct-response marketing.
Let’s dive in!
History of the QR Code
The history of QR codes dates back to 1994 when Denso Wave, a member of the Toyota Group, was needing to develop an alternative to the traditional UPC barcodes to streamline the manufacturing process. Though barcodes were useful, their traditional 12 digit UPC numbers limited the number of iterations possible to make across items. Needing an alternative that could carry more information, the QR code was created, storing up to 7000 characters. The new design allowed the ability to transpose information both vertically and horizontally while using the same amount of area as a barcode. So the question still stands, if they were invented in 1994, why are we just now seeing a rise in everyday QR code use?
Long story short, while QR codes have always had great utility for businesses, they did not hold the same utility for consumers until recently. To use the QR codes, you had to first and foremost have the technology to read them. Though QR codes started to pop up on products and signage over the past few decades, the average consumer did not have that technology readily on hand. Additionally, consumers were not knowledgeable about what this funny-looking digital square meant or did. That is, until recently.
Increased Use of QR Codes by Consumers
There have been many factors that have contributed to the recent rise of QR code use by the everyday person. Firstly, the spread and affordability of smartphones aided in the ability for average consumers to use QR code services. Many smartphone developers now have QR code reading preinstalled on the cameras. Not only is this feature conveniently accessible on your phone, a piece of technology many of us constantly have by our side, it also is pre-installed without a customer needing to take any additional action to use.
The second factor that has impacted its popularity centers around the growth of understanding by the general public. Many innovative services now regularly use QR codes. As these services educated their consumers, QR code know-how became more commonplace. When services like Bird scooters and Citi bikes hit the streets, it taught users to scan and go. Over time, more and more consumer products and services have adopted QR codes within their user experience.
One of the biggest areas adopting QR codes has been the restaurant industry. Due to the pandemic, restaurants across the country replaced their physical menus with QR codes. This adoption not only has health and safety benefits but also allows businesses more flexibility. In a CNBC article by Amelia Lucas discussing this move by restaurants, Bitly President Raleigh Harbour said that in addition to not needing to clean menus after every table, restaurants are “able to adjust their menu offerings on the fly to account for elements like inflation, fluctuations in food and commodities prices, and other variables.” This is a great example of how QR codes have provided a win-win for customers and businesses. So how can marketers use this technology?
Future of QR Code Technology
In addition to QR codes having utility on e-scooters and restaurant tabletops, media companies and marketers are discovering areas where QR codes can be optimized across their programming and advertisements. Like how tech startups familiarized consumers with scanning QR codes to get a bike or scooter, TV stations are beginning to implement QR codes onto their programming. For example, many TV news stations are now implementing QR codes during their segments to drive users from their TV screens to their websites, apps, and more through their mobile devices.
In his Marketing Dive article, Robert Williams discusses the new movement of leveraging “second screening”, the use of a device such as a smartphone while simultaneously consuming media on another screen such as TV. He notes how “marketers have an opportunity to entice viewers to scan a QR code that appears in a commercial break.” Additionally, this action can be used on longer-form media and has the potential to achieve the similar trackability benefits of 800 numbers, but in a manner that is accessible to younger, more tech-savvy audiences. With consumers familiar with this technology, this resurgence has many companies looking at the various possibilities to leverage this tech to bridge the gaps between media channels. In this omnichannel world, this is a very enticing tool for marketers aiming to communicate and lead consumers through the buying process across platforms.
While QR code implementation on television content is still in its early stages, those who adopt this shift and engage with their audiences through this new manner have the opportunity to capture viewers and bring them further down the marketing funnel in a way that is useful, interactive, and trackable. As previously said, QR code technology has the potential to be the bridge between the past and president of direct-response TV, from old-school 800 numbers into the digitally-driven, omnichannel world.
Curious to learn more about how you can implement QR codes in your marketing strategy? River Direct can provide QR code applications to your ads, bringing your TV marketing to the present day. Contact us to learn more!
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It is safe to say that every business and industry has felt the impact of COVID-19 since the pandemic first struck. Like other in-person events, trade shows have had to pivot, adjust, and rethink how business can be operated. From these efforts, we have seen the rise in digital conventions, virtual webinars, and other online alternatives that have attempted to fulfill the connective value trade shows have on business.
As vaccinations become more widespread and businesses begin to enter a new phase, brands and organizers are looking to see what will become of the future of trade shows. In this blog, we will dive into the important role trade shows serve for businesses and agencies, the changes happening with attendee values, and what to consider when entering the new age of trade shows.
Trade Shows Before the Pandemic
According to Shopify, a trade show is “an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.” Dating as far back as 3000 BCE, businesses have used trade shows as collective events to facilitate commerce, educate consumers, and act as a hub for commercial and cultural exchange. The history of modern trade shows is one that, despite changing technology through time, has evolved and adapted in tandem with the business world.
Moving away from its origins simply focused on the transactional sale of goods, trade shows have become hubs for networking and connection. While the internet can digitally connect people across the globe, trade shows are one of the unique times when major players in specific markets come together face-to-face to showcase the latest innovations and share their products and offerings to the world. Whether you are a business looking for exposure or a distributor looking for your next client, trade shows bring together like-minded people under one roof for a chance to connect.
Still, everything has a tradeoff. In exchange for attending these magnetic events, they do come at a cost. From the ticket price of an event pass to the costs of travel and time, these are all valuable things to consider now more than ever. In a report by FTI Consulting analyzing sentiments around the post-pandemic trade show industry, 58% of respondents noted that their trade show budget had decreased compared to pre-COVID levels. While this is unsurprising, it is notable that when asked about their predictions for budgets in a post-lockdown world, “46% said there was an intent to increase their budget above pre-pandemic levels.” This is a promising outlook that notes respondent’s belief that there still is great value in in-person trade shows moving forward.
The Future of Trade Shows
Like many uncertainties today, the future of in-person trade shows is still in the air. Nevertheless, as vaccinations reduce the risk at in-person events, businesses are beginning to ease their way back into the trade show circuit.
While businesses are looking to get back into trade shows, attendee priorities have shifted with the changes in the world. According to the report, the top trade show objectives for smaller companies were networking, selling products/services, and showcasing products/services (in that order). Networking and selling products/services both have grown in post-pandemic importance while showcasing products and services has decreased in importance. For larger companies, the top three objectives were building brand awareness, networking, and showcasing products/services. With bigger companies, building brand awareness and networking have increased in importance in contrast to the decrease of importance with showcasing products/services. As a business reevaluates whether attending a trade show is worth the cost, it is important to understand the shift in priorities based on the needs of your business.
Still, commercial businesses are not the only attendees of trade shows. Additionally, these changes also impact agencies and other companies looking to connect and partner with vendors and brands. As the needs of businesses change, so will trade show attendance. Agencies and other third parties must reevaluate if the same trade shows they were attending pre-pandemic offer the same value and clientele that they aim to connect with today. Overall, as companies reenter the trade show world, they must be aware of the cultural shifts that may affect their bottom line.
Here is a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself when considering coming back to the trade show circuit:
- Is this tradeshow still worth the investment for your brand or agency? While certain trade shows may have been beneficial historically, do they still offer the same value given the shifts in attendee sentiment?
- What are the safety guidelines? This goes without saying, but it is more crucial than ever to understand and follow the safety guidelines set by event organizers. Additionally, during a pandemic, a trade show’s safety guidelines alone can be a big asset or determinant for attending.
- How can you take advantage of the moment? Having face-to-face interactions in today’s world has much more meaning and value than it did pre-pandemic. Going into these events, what are ways you can use this time to set your business or agency apart and create those connections and partnerships?
While the future is still uncertain, the new normal is being forged as we speak. Trade shows have reemerged and are ready to serve their purpose: to connect. Still, we must not forget the large cultural and industry changes that will impact the industry. Those who adjust and adapt to the changing environment will be the ones who are able to make the most of the new trade show world.
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2020 was a difficult year for virtually every industry, including traditional advertising. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as we begin the New Year, as advertising spending in 2021 is projected to bounce back and show positive gains that lead the way for years to come.
A recent report from Magna shows that the U.S advertising market was one of the most resilient sectors from the downfall of COVID 19-related closures and budget decreases, showing just an average 1.5% decline in spend for 2020. Overall, spending is expected to rapidly increase in 2021 as many companies shift their focus to online commerce and retail efforts. According to Morningstar, online ad spending is expected to grow 20% in 2021 and a 14% average rate for 2022-24, outpacing the annual growth rates of 2017-19.
Looking at advertising trends by medium, the digital advertising outlook for 2021 is also quite optimistic. Magna forecasts an 8% year-on-year growth for digital spends of over $336 billion, bringing the medium’s share to 59% of total ad spending. In particular, increases in social media spending will be fueling this trend, as platforms gain more users and increase the lifetime value of each user. A study from eMarketer forecasts U.S. social media ad spending for 2021 to increase by 21.3%, reaching nearly $49 billion in overall spend.
These sizeable gains in online spending are in large attributed to online retailers increasing their advertising efforts to attract and retain long term customers and build brand reputation. According to research by Criteo, in recent months, 53% of consumers have discovered at least one form of online shopping that they plan to continue purchasing from.
Direct-response and digital advertising campaigns will remain at the forefront of marketing growth for 2021 and onwards, as first-party data gives brands useful insights into their customer’s behavior, identifying the path to maximize sales and recurring subscriptions. Social media platforms are also becoming much more efficient at targeted marketing and helping businesses integrate digital communications and robust payment systems that streamline purchases and customer experiences.
2021 will be the first year in history that digital advertising attracts more than 50% of global ad spend, a trend which is likely to only increase over time. Right now, it is more relevant than ever to ensure your business has an omnichannel marketing strategy that diversifies advertising spend to reach new customers and amplify sales. Contact us and see how we can positively impact your business for the New Year.
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