Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Top 10 Truths of Mobile Tagging with QR Codes

#1 The mobile web is distinctly different than the desktop web.

Great content that is built for mobile tagging and delivered through QR codes is designed with the mobile user experience in mind. Properly formatting content to fit all smartphone screens and browsers seems obvious, but this basic concept has been often overlooked. Slapping a QR code on an ad that links scanners to a pre exiting, non-mobile web page is unacceptable and does not make your brand look “tech savvy” at all. When scanning QR codes, most users are time constrained and thus have a short attention span. Mobile tagging is all about jumping into the palm of consumer's hands, give them content that fits.

Special note: Encourage quick transactions such as coupon signups, geo mapping, and Facebook “likes” within your mobile tagging landing pages. Special consideration should be paid to the context. This is what separates mobile tagging content and QR codes from regular desktop web browsing. Large buttons and simple "touch" navigation are crucial to user experience. Keep pages informal and 2-way by embedding Twitter profiles, commenting, and contest form signups. Also, position the call, email and V-card buttons close by. A typical smartphone screen is 2” x 3”. Make the most of that real estate.

#2 Context is God.

As mentioned above, time plays an important role in a great mobile user experience. But even with mobile optimized content that is quick and takes little time to navigate, a user’s view of efficient time spent cannot be measured without putting the mobile content in context with the experience. It is important to make sure content “fits” the scan event. For example, a scan going directly to a facebook fan page does not fit unless the print message lets the user know that is where they are going. Mobile users expect content that is in context to what the anticipated experience is. If a user thinks they are scanning a code for special discounts or coupons, the content better deliver. Out of context content discourages future scanning and engagement while proper context and a great user experience is the seed for a brand / consumer relationship that fosters a viral message through sharing.

Deliver value anywhere possible. This is all about content and context. What is value and where can it be delivered? This is the million dollar question and the answer is evolving. The mobile environment is a swirling terrain with unlimited possibilities. Value doesn’t need to always come from monetary reward like coupons but rather can be the exclusivity of the information related to the environment. The Yankee Group has coined this as the ‘anywhere’ era of web content because today’s content can be consumed anywhere from a web-enabled mobile device. Create and deliver content and offerings that makes sense to your market and help shoppers make honest buying decisions related to their location. Give customers the feeling of instant education-gratification. If it's a magazine, consider the readers of THAT magazine and offer exclusives to target content around that group of readers. Change mobile tagging content often! A QR code that leads directly to video in a loud atmosphere might not be as powerful as a landing page where users can select a particular form of content they want is much more effective. CNN recently debuted QR codes on T. V. during the Republican Presidential Debate that led users to exclusive content related to the debate including an interactive poll.

#3 Mobile sharing fulfils basic human needs.

Sharing content (photos, links, status updates, opinions, location ect) over the desktop PC web has become ridiculously popular over the last 7-10 years. Sharing content over the mobile web is still pretty new, but shows explosive potential as phones get faster at browsing and scanning QR codes. Research shows that once users use a mobile device for social, it becomes the preferred social site interaction device of choice.

Use sharing as a motivator to scan. We’ve already seen the popularity of text messaging (texting) and Twitter (tweets) status updates which are both mobile born forms of communication and sharing. Your mobile tagging web pages need to be easy to share “on the go”, shopping galleries, product pages, instructions ect. and also easy to share on (e.g. comments, ratings). Encourage mobile tagging users to share your content on Facebook, Twitter or email by giving them the opportunity, today this transaction can take place anywhere! Also, make sure that the mobile content is accessible on a desktop browser; content is often shared from a mobile device but accessed through a desktop web portal. Mobile to desktop sharing is still prominent and needs to be considered.

#4 New Smartphone users are born every day. Literally 100 THOUSAND of them!

It’s easy to be discouraged by low scan numbers in the early stages of your mobile tagging efforts. Don’t be. Mobile marketing is about telling your story thru a series of conversations. Remember that results are cumulative. They start with the first scan, and build to lasting relationships with your users. Every new scanner is a relationship that you wouldn’t have had without mobile tagging and it’s important to remind yourself of that. The growing list of consumer proselytized smartphones like the Iphone 4, Evo 3D, Droid and Nexus S are an obvious indication that the demand for the mobile web is only skyrocketing. Focus on building a dynamic mobile tagging experience and users will come. Every engagement you get by a mobile user scanning one of your QR codes is a connection far beyond any traditional marketing thought to date. This is the first step in a new relationship. Some of your consumers are converting from function phones to smartphones right now!

#5 What’s behind the QR code is most important. 

Focus on user experience over QR code aesthetics. Flashy, custom QR codes can boost your QR code campaign's recognition by building BUZZ and identity, no doubt. However, it’s early in the game and consumer recognition is still relatively low, so don’t spend too much time trying to make your code look cool. Customized designer QR codes can’t be duplicated near as efficiently for robust tracking in different applications. It gets tricky if you run a nationwide magazine campaign with 6 splits and you understand that it is smart to have a separate QR code for each split in each magazine.

#6 QR Codes are here to stay.

No doubt about it. They fascinate people. There has been an ongoing debate between marketers on Twitter and Gizmodo about whether QR codes will hit “mainstream” in the U.S. The answer is a resounding YES. There isn’t a better visual prompt than a QR code to engage mobile users to take action on their phone in the physical world. Technologies that take a healthy long time to develop into mainstream culture (as QR has in the U.S), usually don’t go away quickly. Especially when they’re connected to such an enormous segment like mobile. Scanning QR codes will be popular for years to come. There are several catalysts driving mobile web consumption that will co-exist effectively in the future. Augmented reality and NFC will only fuel QR codes and mobile tagging. Over the next 5 years, QR codes will develop into the most universally recognized prompt for mobile web use in the world. You can bank on it. Ignore this fact at your own peril.

#7 QR codes are the only universal 2-D barcode.

QR codes are the only open and globally used 2-D barcode, therefore friendly to entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide. There are several codes that fall into the "2-D Barcode" family with QR codes, but are NOT actually "QR codes". The QR code is widely known for its three squares in the corners of the code. Microsoft Tag, Scanlife's EZ code and SnapTag are often called QR codes when they are not. Proprietary codes really aren’t cool. The big problem with these proprietary codes is that they can only be read by their propriety app which has fragmented the entire 2-D barcode sector. So "QR code" readers can't scan Microsoft Tags, ect. Last we checked there were over 80 different applications (not including the dozens of retailer apps with QR code readers) that read QR codes, and none of them could read a Microsoft Tag. Do you get it? Yes QR codes are strange looking, but they scream “scan me” and that makes them valuable and internationally recognized.

#8 Instructions are important.

Keep in mind that a majority of users are still "first timers". Make it easy for them to download a QR code reader specifically for their smartphone operating system. This is crucial.

A couple of effective methods are being used to help educate users about how to download an app that can scan QR codes. A lot of marketers use short codes that can be easily texted and responds with a link back to the user that will lead them to where they can download a QR code reader. Another method is to provide a short URL (like that users can type into their mobile browser and retrieve a reader. The landing page should be set up to visually guide people to the correct app with icons for each OS (Apple, BB, Android, Windows, and Nokia). We see a day where Facebook incorporates a QR code reader into their app, problem solved.

#9 Using a QR code management software platform yields superior results.

A typical QR code mobile tagging campaign can utilize 100’s of unique QR codes to optimize analytic results. Generating QR codes and viewing analytic data from a QR code management software platform is so easy. This is the best way to run efficient and influential QR code advertising campaigns. The advantage to this is having a complete platform making it simple to build, organize, deploy and track 100's of custom mobile landing pages and QR codes all under one platform. Advertising campaigns that are robust in nature can target mobile content to publications, retailers, T.V. and the web. There are several platforms on the web dedicated to QR code advertising management, but there is only one that seamlessly combines page building, QR code management and tracking in one solution. See it here:

#10 Mobile tagging is fun! 

It is the dawn of a new day. Connecting mobile web content and offerings to existing physical print media is an incredible concept. QR codes are bridging stagnant and impotent Medias into virile and viral mobile engagement. The new forms of communication harnessed by the smartphone device equate to new opportunities to connect with your customers. Most marketers get goose bumps just thinking about the possibilities! Get creative and think big.


  1. hi

    Thnx for this wonderful application insight info .I have read about qr codes,i have got a keen interst in qr codes & i wanna learn things regarding qr codes so that i cud do something related to qr code, my wht nxt to do. specially in educational field & personal networking i.e. business card etc,looking forward ur guidance

    kind rgds

  2. Great post.

    It's really amazing how many QR codes end-up going to non mobile-optimized websites. I think that many marketers still don't get the point.

    We recently put together an experiment / promo to educate our clients as to how QR codes could augment existing marketing initiatives by combining a QR code with online video, motion graphics and (of course) a mobile-optimized website.

    If you're interested, you can take a look at

  3. Nick, this is an awesome post. I'm building up a social business service these months that is utilizing QR-technology like nothing else before, but You could tell some news even to me. Looking forward to your further posts.


    Peter Kadas, MD.

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