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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Amidst the shifts by companies like Apple and Facebook toward preserving consumer privacy online, Amazon has made a move that has captivated e-commerce companies and marketers alike. In our previous blog, How Will Apple iOS 14 Change Digital Advertising, we discussed Apple’s shift away from default internet cookie monitoring toward engaging online users in giving consent for web-tracking. This major shift has forced big online players like Facebook to rethink how consumers can be identified, analyzed, and marketed. Similarly, these shifts have made marketers have to reconsider how they can reach specific audiences with targeted messaging.
On April 24th, 2021, days before Apple launched the notoriously awaited iOS 14.5 update regulating data tracking consent across its interface, CNBC first reported Amazon’s latest move to grant its third-party sellers the capability of marketing directly to the inboxes of their customers. Welcome Amazon’s “Manage Your Customer Engagement” tool. In this article, we’ll dive into what Amazon’s new tool is, why it’s significant, and how this affects both marketers and brands engaged in the ever-changing e-commerce space.
Amazon’s “Manage Your Customer Engagement” Tool
For quite some time, Amazon has been resolute in its efforts to prohibit third-party merchants from excessive contact with their consumers for solicitation. Aside from matters such as communicating order status and reviews, communication has remained fairly minimal from third-party Amazon sellers. All of that seems to be changing with Amazon’s new “Manage Your Customer Engagement” feature.
In short, this new feature allows third-party sellers that are members of Amazon’s Brand Registry to establish a social-media-like following of consenting customers who will receive email promotions directly from the business. These promotions include anything from new product announcements to the latest deals and offers. Think of it as email marketing via Amazon. This new feature allows a seller to market directly to Amazon customers who “follow” their brand, similar to the consented following of accounts on social media.
Why This Matters
This move by Amazon is said to aim at increasing retention, building relationships, and driving engagement. Key benefits of the “Manage Your Customer Engagement” tool include:
- Allowing direct relationship communication between sellers and customers
- Granting greater ability to announce new promotions and products
- Allowing consumers the ability to follow their favorite stores and establish brand loyalty
As previously mentioned, the post-cookie digital shift has made understanding consumer behavior more transparent for the user but harder to track for the business. In a move away from cookies, companies and marketers are needing to find new ways to gain insights into their audiences. Fostering direct, first-party relationships between consumers and brands lays the foundation for transparent, information-rich, and long-term potential as brands seek new ways to build authentic customer loyalty. Amazon’s latest tool appears to be a move toward facilitating this shift.
According to CNBC’s article, an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that it is “committed to serving our shoppers by helping them engage with their favorite brands. With Manage Your Customer Engagement, brands will be able to initiate email campaigns about new product announcements and offers that Amazon will send to shoppers who choose to follow the brand.”
What About Consumer Privacy?
We must not forget that consumer trends show a more negative view of data collection by companies. Despite the new ways of contacting customers, Amazon’s new feature will continue to keep shoppers’ contact information private from the seller. According to the CNBC article, “Shoppers’ contact information will continue to remain private. Amazon will give companies aggregate data when they use the tool that shows them how many emails will go out when they decide to share marketing campaigns with their followers.”
For eCommerce Companies
Understanding the changes to the digital landscape is paramount for sellers looking to find the balance between where their audience is and where their brand is best able to communicate effectively and authentically. As the industry moves away from reliance on aggregated detailed data banks, companies will need to internally establish, utilize, and nurture their customer databases since that is where they will find the valuable, rich, and accurate understanding of their buyer. All of this better informs a company of the ways in which it can reach and interact with customers to grow long-term success.
Amazon’s move toward providing CRM tools like “Manage Your Customer Engagement” is beneficial in allowing their sellers greater ability to foster long-term consumer relationships. While companies must not forget to maintain transparency in collecting data of their customers, this moment offers companies a creative opportunity to expand their unique in-house customer knowledge. As we are embarking on the newly implemented cookie-consent era on platforms like iOS and Facebook, it will be interesting to see how tools like this will alter the business-consumer relationship.
Want to implement Amazon’s latest tool into your brand’s Amazon account? Contact us to see how River Direct can assist in advertising your brand and scaling your business. To get our latest blogs straight to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter below and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram for more on the latest trends and news around marketing and advertising!
At the beginning of September 2020, retail space vacancy rates hit a historic high of 9.8%, which is largely fueled by Covid-19 shutdowns and safety concerns across the nation. The demand for commercial retail space has been slowly decreasing over the past few years as retail transitions to digital, but now with Covid-19, there is a surplus of availability without enough customers to lease out this vacant space.
In response to this change in demand, mall operators are forced to roll up their sleeves and focus on actively finding new tenants, and developers are beginning to repurpose mall space for a number of businesses, including schools, doctor’s offices, long term storage facilities, and even residential housing. While some businesses are feeling the impact of reduced physical retail space, large direct to consumer sellers such as Amazon are racing to secure vacant mall spaces in proximity to urban areas and adjacent neighborhoods to meet the increasing demand of online order deliveries.
Currently, Amazon is aiming to convert several former JC Penny and Sears department store locations in micro-fulfillment warehouses, strategically located close to urban communities which will allow orders to be delivered quicker and at lower shipping costs. Some retail business owners speculate that the introduction of micro-fulfillment centers in conventional mall spaces will increase the rent for struggling businesses, yet many property managers are even negotiating discounted rates to find long-term tenants that can reliably cover overhead costs.
Amazon recently reported that it doubled its net profit to $5.2 billion in its 2020 Q2 earnings statement, which indicates that the ecommerce giant is not going anywhere. The future of vacant mall space may seem uncertain as many businesses and consumers alike are cautious about the upcoming holiday shopping season, however the bigger picture of retail is much brighter than it may appear. Overall, Amazon retail sales still only account for roughly 5% of all retail spend across the country, which goes to show that no single force is dominating the entire retail marketplace.
With the new changes in physical retail and online ecommerce, it’s more important than ever to establish a sound marketing plan and take advantage of an omni-channel advertising strategy to reach new customers. At River Direct, we offer a number of performance driven marketing solutions to help your retail business grow through linear television, Amazon listings, over-the-top/connected-tv, and social media marketing.
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