Black Friday is right around the corner, which means most companies are gearing up for the big shopping season. Others are planning for the start of a new fiscal year. Regardless of your Q4 focus, aligning your offline and online marketing efforts, particularly around mobile, should be a priority. And while marketing channel integration is nothing new, innovations in digital marketing continue to create new opportunities to achieve it.

One of the most direct ways of creating a seamless experience for your customers between off- and online communications is through QR codes, or other digital barcodes, embedded into images and printed materials. Digital barcodes are free to create and they can be placed just about anywhere – collateral, signage, packaging, print ads, promotional items, billboards, etc. Additionally, you can encode many types of information into the code, including video, maps, contact information, calendar events and more. Although digital barcodes typically require a smart phone and an app to use, considering that 72.5 million people in the U.S. own a smart phone as of March 2011 (and this number continues to grow at an astonishing rate), this constraint is becoming increasingly obsolete.

QR codes have become more mainstream, but they are still new enough to attract consumers often due to mere curiosity. A study conducted by MGH found that 49% of U.S. consumers who have seen QR codes on products or ads have scanned them. But what happens when the novelty wears off? Long term success and adoption of QR codes will come from delivering a unique experience for your customers, like exclusive content, special discounts, or a streamlined purchasing process. Make the benefits exceed the effort.

5 tips on using QR codes effectively:

  1. Be creative with design and application, BUT make sure the code is recognizable (people quickly understand that it’s a code to scan) and that you follow QR code best practices when implementing (to ensure the code will work).
  2. Provide scanning instructions along with the code.
  3. Explain what the user can expect when they scan.
  4. Create a mobile friendly landing page.
  5. Test from multiple mobile devices, platforms and locations.

What brands have you seen using QR codes creatively and effectively?

Do you think QR codes are just a fad, or will they stick around?