One of the newest and most intriguing ways marketers are integrating mobile with the traditional power of direct mail is through QR codes, or Quick Response codes. These two-dimensional barcodes can feature PURLs that drive users from printed material to the Web via smartphones. QR codes can turn a printed direct mail piece into an interactive mobile call to action, allowing static messages to become a quick-scan hyperlink to just about anything online.
Why Mix Mobile and Direct Mail?
The Nielsen Company recently predicted smartphones will overtake feature phones next year. Although smartphones first became popular among business people, today many new buyers select them for personal use. Additionally, faster mobile web connectivity is growing, and mobile web search is becoming one of the most common uses for these devices.
Marketers, of course, have been watching the growth of smartphones with a keen interest in how best to use this technology to connect with consumers. Increasingly smartphones are becoming an integral part of the daily lives of consumers. Many people don't leave home without them and view their smartphones as very personal devices. While the relatively new field of sending marketing messages directly to consumers' mobile phones has its place, many people are worried about privacy. A recent study indicates young adults would rather receive marketing messages via postal mail. The study, titled "Finding the Right Channel Combination: What Drives Channel Choice," conducted by ICOM, surveyed consumers from 18 to 34 years old and found these young adults overwhelmingly preferred to learn about marketing offers via postal mail rather than online sources. The study also found only 25 percent of respondents perceive getting more postal mail compared to a year ago, while nearly three times that amount said they're getting more email. There is a great opportunity to gain these consumers' attention and interest by using direct mail.
The point here is, as is so often the case, integrating these two marketing channels will help companies achieve a higher return on investment on their campaigns. Here are five ways to do that.
1. Turn Static Print into an Interactive Call to Action
Using a QR code is simple: Consumers with a QR code reader app on their smartphones can quickly scan a barcode on a direct mail piece and be immediately taken to online content without having to type in a Web address. QR codes are commonplace in Asia (QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated, but the technology can be used by anyone for free) and have picked up a lot of momentum in the United States this year. In addition to direct mail, they are appearing on magazines, billboards, product packages and store shelves. The codes are a great call-to-action that take advantage of the growth in consumer smartphone use and lets consumers use their hot new tech to do something other devices can't.
Combining direct mail and QR codes can also save time and money. Rather than having to pay for business reply mail and waiting for the post office to return the information, marketers can direct customers to respond online in real time via smartphone. Giving customers choices in how they can participate in a campaign makes them more likely they are to say 'yes' to an offer. Plus, the QR code provides a method of instantaneous, impulsive response seldom possible from mail pieces today.
2. Get Personal with Your Message
On a direct mail piece, a QR code can link a smartphone user to a personalized URL (PURL). A PURL provides a Web address for an individual so the content at that address can be unique for that visitor, and marketers can create unique QR codes linking to PURLs for everyone on their direct mail lists. Once on a PURL microsite, visitors may be invited to sign up for monthly newsletters, for example, or view an embedded video, or request a mailed fulfillment package. Allow them to share as much or as little contact information as they desire.
This online interaction can be tracked, making it easier to measure in terms of campaign ROI. The text PURL can, of course, be put on a direct mail piece in conjunction with a QR code, allowing recipients to manually type it into a Web browser if they don't have smartphones or would rather engage from a computer.
3. Incorporate Email and Text Messaging
Email and SMS text messaging can also be integrated into multitouch marketing campaigns with QR codes. For example, consumers receiving a direct mail piece that contains a QR Code could be immediately linked to a microsite. Then, shortly after the visiting the microsite, they receive an email or SMS text response thanking them for visiting the site. Based on information they chose to share while at the microsite, they may receive additional direct mail pieces, text or social media notifications following up on the products or services they expressed interest in.
4. Intelligent Mail Tracking
QR Codes can also help marketers track helpful information for their campaigns. As with any PURL, marketers can analyze which QR codes are being scanned the most to determine what offers are working best. Unlike most PURLs, marketers can also track which geographical area they are being scanned in. All of this information can help develop the next campaign.
Additionally, intelligent mail tracking available through the USPS's CONFIRM enables marketers to electronically determine the progress of their mailings through the postal system. Delivery alerts then make it possible for a marketer to notify customers via email or a text message to expect a personalized package in the mail, sparking curiosity.
5. Convincing First-Timers
A point of caution: While use of QR Codes is on the rise, there still may be a level of unfamiliarity within your target audience. When including a QR code as a call-to-action on a direct mail piece, provide brief, easy-to-understand directions of how to use it. Consider including a URL where users can download a QR code-reader for their phones. Also give consumers a good reason to scan the code. The printed direct mail piece will certainly carry information, but the code can enhance that by taking people to a video where they can watch case studies or see a demonstration.
Smartphones have exploded onto the scene, and QR Codes are, for good reason, one of the hottest applications in the marketing world today. They are easy to track and provide an immediate response mechanism that catches consumers at the very moment of interest-once consumers are intrigued, QR codes help them take the next step. Along with other interactive technologies, such as PURLs, SMS texting and email, QR codes are helping make the new generation of direct mail more powerful than ever.
David Henkel is president of Johnson and Quin, located in Niles, Illinois. Johnson & Quin is a national leader in targeted full-service direct mail printing and production, offering the latest data and personalization technologies and multichannel marketing capabilities. He can be reached at dhenkel@J-QUIN.com.