Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Before you bake that QR code, ask me whether I use them--like @KingArthurFlour did

I've seen posts suggesting that QR codes are not long for this world or on the fence about whether they'll achieve mass adoption. And I'm seeing more QR codes in publications and storefront windows, and on ads and business cards. It's true that QR codes aren't in mass use yet. Many geeks have moved right past them and are ready for the next alternative. Consumers say they like the idea of QR codes, but need help to learn how to use them (or just better technology).

Given a climate that's uncertain but full of potential, it makes sense for brands to reach out and ask their users what they know about and want from QR codes. So why did it take until this week for a brand I follow to ask about QR codes?


The smart brand was King Arthur Flour, which posted a picture of a QR code on its Facebook page and simply asked users whether they knew what it was. After most respondents said they knew, a follow-up post was used to explain the answer and to elicit more specific feedback about how to put QR codes to use:
WOW! The people speak... Looks like the vast majority of you know what this is. For those who don't: Meet QR codes, the new way to go from mobile device to just about anywhere online. Once you download a free QR-scanning app to your Internet-enabled cell phone, iPad, or other Internet-connected mobile device (I use one called "Scan"), simply hold your device up to this code, and it'll pop up a specific Web page - in this case, our King Arthur Flour home page. We intend to start using these in our catalogue this fall, linking to selected recipes. Cool, huh? What other ways can you suggest we use QR codes?
Responses to that question were creative, with readers suggesting where to put them (think QR codes on flour packaging to share details on where the wheat originates, on packing forms in shipments, or at the edge of wheat fields to identify them as King Arthur's sources) and what to link to: Recipes, in-store discounts, instructional videos, contests, customer service for returns, or ingredients you want to add to your online shopping cart. By the end of this comment thread, several respondents had been inspired to download code-scanning apps and were trading recommendations with each other.

The yield for King Arthur Flour? By asking about QR codes first, rather than just rolling them out, the company was able to:

  • Transparently share a concept under consideration before its implementation;
  • Verify customer comfort levels with the still-new technology;
  • Let wary customers vent concerns and early adopters reinforce their approval;
  • Offer reassurance on the spot that QR codes wouldn't replace standard modes of communication, just augment them--a concern raised by respondents. That will help keep rumors and anxieties from building;
  • Gather ideas direct from product users and fans and learn what users are seeking in convenient formats;
  • Engaging and educating the user base, while building community. The second post garnered close to 80 "likes" of the post or particular comments, and dozens of replies. Having readers help other readers figure out how to use QR codes suggests a strong comfort level and community.

Have you asked your users about QR codes (or other new features) before you roll them out and bake them? If not, give this approach a taste-test...

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1 comment:

Dave Olsen said...

I find the King Flour method of engaging the community around this new method of connecting with folks really intriguing. We have used QR codes a few times at West Virginia University to help push users to marketing pieces and, once, a poll. I've posted the results of those campaigns to our blog and compared them to our use of text messaging to supplement the QR codes.

http://www.dmolsen.com/mobile-in-higher-ed/2011/04/29/qr-codes-vs-text-messaging-for-sharing-web-links/

The thing that really strikes me as the big difference between our use and the uses suggested by the King Flour customers are useful tasks versus fluff. A link to a recipe is probably more compelling and useful than a marketing piece.