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The QR Code Social Tipping Point Approacheth - Repent & Believe!

What is this “social tipping point” I speak of?  Simply put, it’s when Average Joe Schmoe from Normalsville, Americatown recognizes one of these goofy little squares and immediately knows that he can scan it to get cool stuff.  And believe me or not, in the United States, I think it’s slated to happen this summer.  Let’s look at some indicators and factors in play:

Widely Available Mobile Hardware & Software That’s Capable

  • These are the prerequisites.  Just a few years ago when smartphones represented less than 10% of the market nothing else really mattered.  Now the penetration has eclipsed 50%, and with almost all new shipments being smartphones the adoption curve in the coming months is exponential.
  • Despite the general lack of native handset support for QR scanning, a groundswell of downloadable barcode scanning apps has amazingly managed to carry QR into the mainstream.  And that’s because YOUR MOM is doing it with apps like ShopSavvy (18M downloads).  Maybe more amazing is that adoption numbers have doubled in just the last 3-4 months.
  • Native handset support looms on the horizon.  BBM 5.0 actually already has it, but it’s not very obvious.  Here’s some big news (technically a rumor I guess) that only I can share because, well, it was privileged information (lol, don’t trust me with secrets).  The Android team is incorporating QR scanning directly into the Camera app in an upcoming release.  I can’t disclose my source (rhymes with Oduct Anager for Oogle Oggles) but you can imagine how this is going to blow the doors off the QR party.

Real World Engagement Grows Exponentially + Recall Bonus

A recent study by MGH spoke volumes about the growing prominence of QR code marketing to the mainstream consumer.  Here’s the highlights:

  • Whoa. Two-thirds of smartphone users can remember seeing a QR code.  This implies they know what it is.
  • Half the folks that have recently seen a QR code have scanned it.  I expect this to grow as the value behind the code continues to get better.  (As interesting point of reference, think about how many people have recently clicked a banner ad online.)
  • Wowzers, this is such a HUGE BONUS, and definitely something to take advantage of right now.  72% of smartphone users are likely to recall an ad with a QR code on it.  Even if the consumer doesn’t end up scanning it, the QR code helps your marketing stand out from the noise.
  • Not surprisingly, consumers want QR codes to give them something valuable, deliver rich content and connect on social media.  Everything we’ve been telling you here at ShareSquare for a while now (smiley face).

I also consider it a harbinger of things to come that gigantic retailers like Best Buy and The Home Depot are now extensively using QR codes in both their Out-Of-Home marketing and as a supplement to the in-store shopping experience.

While it’s hard to get a sense of just how much more scanning is taking place (because there are so many different apps) we can infer the % growth in overall volume from Scanlife’s quarterly Trend Report and this Mashable infographic courtesy of JumpScan:

  • The 12x increase in scanning activity over 6 months is pretty compelling, especially considering it’s certainly accelerated even more since December 2010.
  • An interesting note from ScanLife’s most recent trend report is that for the first time, among apps that Scanlife is tracking, QR code scans actually outnumbered 1D/UPC scans.

One last factor in play that’s so obvious it’s easily overlooked: in most of America it’s finally getting warm enough to spend lots of time milling about outside.  Since many QR code engagements are Out-Of-Home, a whole slew of no-longer-bemittened consumers will have more time and opportunity to interact with these campaigns.

The Takeaway

So what’s all this mean? In short, QR codes are no longer just for the niche & geeky audience, they’re now an effective tool in the mainstream marketing arsenal of artists, event promoters, agencies, studios, retailers, brands and more.

The approaching “social tipping point” is a train pulling into the station, and this summer you have the opportunity to hop on, right on time. Whether you’re a novice band promoter or a seasoned pro agency marketer, you can use the ShareSquare platform as your one-stop-shop for creating, deploying and managing your QR code campaigns.  We’ve taken out much of the guesswork by incorporating best practices and immediately optimizing the experience for all mobile devices, so you don’t have to worry about re-inventing the wheel.  Give it spin with a free account, you can be up and running in minutes.

Your Boy Drops QR Code Knowledge at Where 2.0

Last week I was invited to speak at the Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara to discuss QR code adoption in the United States. What’s amazing is that since I submitted the proposal last fall I actually had to tweak the focus of talk. I was initially going to speak about whether this consumer behavior would take off, but in the last 6 months the market has accelerated so fast that I instead had to address how and why it’s happening.

In the video snippet above (thx to our awesome intern Mimi Newton!) I talk about one of the important ways in which US adoption is different from the Japanese market, where QR codes have been big for the last ~5 years.  In Japan the mobile web and desktop internet grew up in tandem, so most websites provided a pretty decent experience when viewed on mobile devices.  In the US however, many well-intentioned marketers have royally messed up their QR code campaigns by directing to non-mobile optimized content or, god forbid, Flash.

And that’s a big reason we created ShareSquare: to provide you with a slick HTML5 mobile web app that not only gives your audience a good experience after they scan your QR code, but one that converts their interest into video views, Facebook Likes, etc.

If you’re interested you can see my slides from the presentation below.

Where 2.0 Presentation Matthias Galica
View more presentations from Matthias Galica

HOWTO: Create an Instant Win Contest with ShareSquare

Because our ShareSquare platform allows you to easily mix-and-match different features, or “modules” as we call them, we see people using their ShareSquares to connect with their offline audiences in a variety of interesting ways.  Many of those with the most compelling calls-to-action have used the Instant Win module to transform their QR code into a sort of  ”digital Willy Wonka Golden Ticket”.

Why can this be so effective?  Simple - everybody likes to win free stuff.  Check out how Cypress Hill recently gave away tickets and backstage access for their 4/20 shows.  Or check out how DipDive’s Ben Gross wrapped his 33-city tour bus in ShareSquare QR codes and awarded VIP access to the die-hard fans that tracked it down.  Ben says:

DipDive wanted to pair innovative musicians and a cutting edge technology to create a unique fan experience. Using ShareSquare QR codes in a nation-wide interactive ‘scavenger’ hunt was perfect, because we could continue to encourage early adopters in both art and tech to interact with each other through social media and an out-of-home experience.

Thanks to ShareSquare’s non-technical (no coding required!) Content Management System, you can set up, deploy and manage a contest or promotion like this in minutes.

If you’re the “learn-by-doing” type, go ahead and enable the Instant Win module in your own account, and give it a whirl.  Setting up the parameters, like campaign date range, number of prizes, and what you’re actually giving away is pretty straightforward.

But since this is one of those things where a little hand-holding couldn’t hurt, we put together the deck below, so you can walkthrough an example of a ShareSquare mobile web app using the Instant Win feature to enhance marketing materials like posters, stickers, flyers and more.  Check it out:

ShareSquare Instant Win Walkthrough
View more presentations from Matthias Galica

And as always, if you think your campaign’s application of this neat little module is particularly uber-cool, give us a shout, we’d love to blog about it.