Global Material Handling System Integrators

How the Material Handling Industry Sparked a Marketing Craze

[caption id="attachment_4486" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Try to avoid using QR codes that link one Webpage to another, but as an example this one simply leads to our blog homepage."]QR Code Example to Bastian Blog[/caption] As surprising as it might seem, the material handling industry was the founder of today's current marketing craze--the quick response (QR) code. That little black and white square now seen everywhere from your Starbucks cup to movie posters was originally used by vehicle manufacturers to track parts. In recent years, however, the QR code has transitioned into a handy little marketing tool, great for increasing customer engagement and providing additional information. Over the past 18 months, QR code usage has grown by more than 1600% in the United States, in most part due to the increasing number of smart phone users (currently 39% of U.S. adults).

What is a QR Code

Unlike one-dimensional UPC barcodes, which can only hold up to 20 numeric digits, QR codes are two-dimensional, allowing them to hold thousands of alphanumeric characters. This increased volume allows a QR code to hold much more information, meaning they can lead people to a Webpage, send text or email messages to specific addresses, open YouTube videos, or even download contact information right to a person's phone.

Activating Them

To activate a QR code, all you need is a smartphone and a QR reader mobile application, such as QRReader, ScanLife, or i-nigma (there are many others). You simply download the app to your mobile device, open it, and then hover over the code so the app can scan the code using your phone's internal camera. Once it is scanned, the application opens the destination associated with the code, such as a Webpage, video, social media profile, etc.

Industry Usage

In the July issue of DC Velocity, there were 11 ads containing a QR code, and uses ranged from links to whitepaper download forms and product videos to Webpage links for more information and even a registration form to win a prize. But regardless of how they are used, material handling companies are beginning to realize the potential benefits of linking offline and online marketing efforts. [caption id="attachment_4460" align="alignright" width="315" caption="In the July 2011 issue of DC Velocity, Hytrol utilized a QR code to lead readers to a short case study video (yes, you can scan it)."]Hytrol Conveyor Company QR Code Example[/caption] One of the better uses of a QR code in last month's issue was developed by Hytrol Conveyor Company. Their full-page ad on the back cover of DC Velocity led to a short case study video promoting a recent system they installed for one of their clients. The application of the code was well planned and boasted several notable aspects including:
  1. An explanatory paragraph for those not yet familiar with QR codes
  2. An engaging destination (i.e. short, mobile-friendly video)
  3. Entertaining, yet informational content for consumers
Codes similar to Hytrol's are great examples of how to properly use QR codes because the content is enjoyable for consumers, while still beneficial in terms of marketing and branding for the companies utilizing them. If you want to create a great QR code campaign, here are a few simple things to remember:
  1. Whatever you link to, make sure it is mobile friendly, and test it on a variety of mobile platforms (i.e. iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.)
  2. If you place a QR code on a Webpage, don't lead readers to another Webpage. They are called quick response codes for a reason, and it would be much easier for people to click on a hyperlink.
  3. Rarely is it beneficial to send people to your homepage. At the very least, send people to a product- or service-focused landing page.
  4. This might seem obvious, but double check that your QR code actually works before using it.

Endless Possibilities

Placing a QR code on your print materials is just one of many ways you could utilize these codes. The marketing applications alone are numerous, but you don't have to stop there. Customer support and sales are other great avenues where you might use QR codes. For example:
  • Place them on pieces of equipment
    1. People could scan the code and quickly shop for replacement parts on your Website (the code could be customized and tracked for each of your sales people, so they could get a percentage of those sales).
    2. Maintenance personal could watch short tutorial videos on equipment repair.
    3. The code could lead to a suggested preventative maintenance schedule.
  • During the sales process
    1. Place the code on physical copies of system renderings, leading potential customers to a proposed system animation.
    2. Place on the business cards of your sales people, so customers can easily save the sales person's contact information in their phone.

Think, Plan, Act

QR codes can be extremely beneficial and effective when used correctly, but remember to use them only when it's appropriate. There needs to be a return on investment for your company, whether that comes in the form of money, leads, or increased customer engagement; but most importantly, make sure the QR code destination is interesting, entertaining, or helpful to your customers.  Don't just smack a QR code somewhere for the heck of it.  Plan out your campaign, and make sure it provides real value to your customers and your company.

Helpful Links

If you want further information, here are a few great articles on QR codes and how to use them effectively:
  1. 5 Useful Ecommerce Applications of QR Codes
  2. How to Combine QR Codes with the Power of Facebook
  3. 14M Americans Scanned QR Codes via Smart Phones in June

Has your business implemented a QR code campaign? If so, how did it go? Any lessons learned?

Author: Margie Schramke


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