4 Tips to Exhume Mobile Barcodes From the Marketing Graveyard
I am always on the hunt for mobile barcodes to see how they're being used by marketers to engage with consumers. During the Easter holiday, my family and I made our annual trek to a national casual restaurant chain to have brunch and a give a break to our hostess (me) from all the holiday cooking. There were 11 of us, so it took a while for our food to arrive. Via a tabletop advertisement, this national chain offered diners the ability to win a prize by scanning a QR Code. Having nothing better to do, I decided to play along.
I was simply amazed (and dismayed) by what I found after scanning the code. First, the QR Code drove me to a non mobile-optimized website. While it gave me the opportunity to enter a contest to win a prize, before doing so I had to complete a long form providing my name, address, phone number, mobile phone number and email address. Imagine doing this on a small screen using a non-optimized website … It took forever! So much so that my teenaged niece (who ALWAYS has her iPhone either in her hand or in her back pocket) asked me what I was doing. I shared what I was working on and asked her if she had ever scanned a QR Code. Her response? "Yeah, when they first came out I used to scan every one I saw. But they were dumb, so I don't even pay any attention to them now."
After spending nearly 10 minutes filling out the form, I was redirected to a page that asked me what prize I'd like, should I win the contest. Unbelievably, the prize offering was a very small stuffed teddy bear (e.g. the size of one of the Pound Puppies) in a choice of four colors with the restaurant's name imprinted on it. Are you kidding me? Needless to say, I was so annoyed that I just closed out of the site without entering for the prize. I looked up at my niece who was giggling at me as she said, "See? I told you so."
I am just amazed with how marketers are still missing the incredible opportunity that exists to engage with consumers via the third screen and mobile barcodes. Not only are they missing an incredible opportunity, they are in many cases creating negative consumer experiences ensuring that their codes won't be scanned again!
As we embark upon the busy summer sales season, here are some of my tips on how to provide consumers with action-rich engagement opportunities and why driving consumers to a website link can actually harm rather than help.
1. Driving consumers to a mobile website requires them to have smartphones. While the use of smartphones continues to grow, roughly half of U.S. consumers still don't have smartphones—meaning marketers may be missing the opportunity to engage with a large population of potential triers and buyers.
2. Driving consumers to a mobile website limits your ability to serve sequential messages and build a conversation with consumers. Whereas, using SMS-based text messaging allows you to engage in a dialogue with anyone who has a mobile phone capable of text messaging. Incredibly, the restaurant chain above offered me the opportunity to opt-in to receive news and discounts, but the offer was to receive the information via email. Why would they not create a campaign to engage with consumers via mobile, considering that is where the engagement began? By creating action-rich engagements, the opportunities to drive positive consumer experiences and provide real value are unlimited. Here are several examples of what the restaurant in this case could have done to create a positive sustainable engagement with me:
- Offered me the opportunity to opt in to receive discounts by using only my mobile phone number … no long forms to complete. No need to visit a website.
- Offered me the opportunity to join its loyalty club and earn points/discounts for that restaurant visit.
- Served up sequential questions to determine my food likes and pushed me an instant discount offer on food items to drive incremental food sales. (Or, alternately, offered me a discount for my next visit, encouraging repeat visits.)
- Offered me a discount on merchandise in its marketplace connected to the restaurant—also driving incremental sales.
- Offered me an instant-win prize opportunity and had the prize delivered to me on-the-spot, at the restaurant.
3. A website visit trumps a brand's opportunity to ask the consumer to opt in to get ongoing information from it via mobile. Absent having consumers fill out long forms, a brand is limited in its ability to build a database of mobile fans and users. When brands use a mobile barcode to drive consumers to a website, they do not know that the consumer connected using their mobile phone. As such, a brand is limited in its ability to deliver a custom engagement to mobile consumers—it's up to the consumer to visit a brand's site and the brand is unable to incentivize the consumer to begin an interactive dialogue via mobile.
4. Mobile websites are typically built with a one-size-fits-all mentality, limiting the dynamic needs of consumers on the go.
- Marketers tend to connect consumers to existing mobile Web pages, rather than building experiences that meet the contextual need of a consumer at any given place and time.
- Mobile websites tend to connect consumers to brand content, rather than connecting consumers to actions like commerce, social, discount and promotional engagements—and action is often the focus of consumers on the go.
- Mobile websites tend to have focused-functionality; therefore, a direct response campaign is limited to the functionality of the website. Providing website content is not the same as developing a direct response campaign, which is how marketers should be thinking about mobile activation.