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QR codes for London commuters

For those of us who live in London, and have the dubious pleasure of using public transport daily, QR codes are becoming part of the landscape. We see them in the daily newspapers, on billboards, advertisements, etc. To the surprise of many, including your humble correspondent, marketers seem undeterred by the complete lack of wi-fi or 3G network in the underground. This led us here at Scanbuy to wonder, and assess, how successful these QR codes could be.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve taken note of the codes we have found in the tube stations and checked the ones in the free daily newspapers. The statistics resulting from QR codes created with free generators such as are freely accessible, therefore we have been able to access the results and analyse their success.

To our surprise, the lack of wireless data network doesn’t seem to prevent people from scanning. The most important success factors, however, are the call to action and repeated, regular exposure to an ad: a decently-executed QR code results in one to two thousand scans per ad placement per day in high volume papers. A very well-executed QR code could lead to five time this, whereas a poorly done one could easily result in just 200 scans.

We also notice that big, obvious mistakes are not uncommon even among leading brands and agencies: in 75% of cases the landing pages are not mobile optimised.

Another common mistake is the use of direct codes (i.e. the URL is directly encoded in the QR code): Lovefilm for example, printed one million DVD envelopes with a code that couldn’t work because of a typo in the encoded URL. Moreover, most QR codes just lead to a website, when in reality they could do much more, such as inviting users to engage with advertisers through emails, twitter, etc.

On the bright side Transport for London, the government body responsible for the city’s transport system, recently announced plans to introduce free wireless Internet access in the London Underground.

Despite the current lack of internet coverage and uneven execution of QR codes, people do scan and respond to QR codes. Marketers can only imagine the size of the opportunity once there will be internet coverage. But they need to get the basics right first, and understand that a QR code can be much, much more than just a URL in disguise.

For expert advice, please contact us.

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