There Is a QR Code In a Public Toilet Near You

QR codeQR codes offer interesting opportunities for businesses seeking to engage consumers in new ways. The main benefit of QR codes, if you ask me, is that you can simply use them anywhere you want and dispose of plenty of possibilities to target specific people, groups of people and thus communities, while connecting the power of online with the pertinence of physical presence. The possibilities to target depend on the type of environment you use QR codes in. In other words: it’s a lot about content in context.

Since QR codes are used by a relatively small percentage of mobile users, there is also a ‘natural’ segmentation that will disappear gradually as more people, apart from the digital natives and digital savvy, start using QR codes for whatever reason. The latter is another advantage of QR codes: you can basically use them for all sorts of interaction purposes.

Focusing on impulse and curiosity in ‘real life’

QR code on shop door in Oldenburg

QR code on shop door in Oldenburg

QR codes are appearing in really all physical environments. They are also often placed in online environments, such as Google Books, where you can find them at the bottom of a book description page. However, I don’t really think that adding a QR code to a web page in general makes a lot of sense. It’s mainly in print and the “outside world” where they will ultimately thrive well and are relevant.

The success of using QR codes solely depends on the way you engage people “in real life”. We all have seen nifty print ads with nice QR codes in them, just as we have seen QR codes with a special link for promotions in a newspaper.

Whether people scan them or not, depends on the context and promise. The fact that it’s so easy to scan them provides you with opportunities to focus on impulse (QR stands for Quick Response for a reason), curiosity and plain old benefits.

QR code on coach in London

QR code on coach in London

Since QR codes are far from used by all mobile users (14 million Americans in one month scanning a QR code is not that much really), and in many countries still are a relatively new phenomenon, the actual excitement about them might fade away but it won’t happen anytime soon and the concept of connecting physical to virtual will only grow, leading to more technologies and applications.

QR code usage data

In practice, QR codes seem to be scanned post in printed magazines or newspaper, according to a new comScore study. Both print formats account for nearly half of all scans in the US, comScore found.

Product packaging follows second with 35.3% of participants and, surprisingly, 27.4% scanned them from a website on a PC. So, I guess that – for now, at least – finding smart ways to use them there make sense after all. People decide, remember?

23.5% said they scan codes from posters, flyers and kiosks.

Furthermore, TV, storefronts, business cards and brochures were mentioned (graphic below).

source of scanned QR code source comScore

comScore: source of scanned QR code

The study also showed that the typical “human” QR code scanner is male, young to middle-age and belonging to the higher income demographic group. As with every “new” (well, not really) marketing technology, this will obviously change over time. We have seen it so often before.

There are still plenty of places where QR codes can be used if you have the proper imagination, both in print and elsewhere. From business cards to T-shirts and even tattoos (guerrilla marketing), you name it.

QR codes everywhere

QR code in public restroom in Groningen

QR code in public restroom in Groningen

I’ve been taking some pictures (with my mobile, of course) to get a nice overview of QR codes and where they are popping up. You can find some of them in this post. They include:

  • The back of a bus operated by a coach tour operator in London (relevant when the bus stands still often, not recommended to scan while driving).
  • The door of a hairstyling business in Oldenburg (Germany). QR codes can be used in very smart ways in or around retail stores, restaurants, etc.
  • A poster in a public restroom in Groningen (The Netherlands). This one was really relevant and well targeted, given its’ focus on students in a student bar in a student city and promoting software deals for students.

Public restrooms by the way, seem to be very popular places for posters with QR codes (hence obviously the title of this post).

One advice though for the male population: scan before or after having performed your “public duty”.

Finally, a finding from comScore (for Europe) that might surprise you: in the EU5 region, the large majority of mobile users who scanned a QR or bar code in June, did so while… at home.

location when scanning QR codes and bar codes

Two of the often heard comments regarding the use and usage of QR codes is that they are not offering anything valuable to those who scan them and are sometimes hard to “read”. Here’s my magic solution to that: make sure they offer value and that they are easy to read… Don’t “QR” for the sake of it or for being a “first mover”. You’re too late for that anyway.

And, as always, think cross-channel. QR codes enable you to perfectly.

  • Infrasoft

    What a useful article! I thought it too but it’s complicated because it’s illegal to put them anywhere, whenever you want. And this type of publicity is surely more efficient for products than B2B.

    • J-P De Clerck

      Checking local legislation is never bad in marketing ;) I think it indeed is more appropriate for consumer marketing purposes, however there sure are many B2B applications possible as well. It becomes interesting when you start working with data capturing and content marketing, for instance. Thanks for the comment.