The graphic arts are well known for pushing the communications envelope and the print industry is quick to add value that generates attention wherever possible. Digital printing allows for variability, the inclusion of personalized text and images to draw consumer interest to direct mail, and personalized URLs (pURLs) to elicit a call to action. One of the latest trends, quick response (QR) codes, helps transform print into an interactive communication channel.
QR codes store URLs or pURL information. The codes link users quickly and easily to designated Web sites through an enabled smart phone’s camera or Webcam. QR codes enable smart phone users to link from physical world image to the Web with one click or snapshot. While these busy, square barcodes may not be exceptionally pretty; they enable fast Web access.
QR codes are desirable because they hold more information than traditional barcodes. According to Blackberry, a typical QR code can include approximately 7,000 numeric characters or 4,000 alphanumeric characters. The adoption of smart phone technology, combined with savvy marketers and consumers, makes QR codes an innovative way to engage print readers.
The interactive codes have gained the attention of many tech-savvy marketers. One interesting example comes from Alec Bradley Cigars. The company recently embedded QR codes in their advertisements, shelf talkers, T-shirts, and other merchandise.
If a consumer sees an Alec Bradley shelf talker in a cigar store or other retail location, they scan the code for details on that particular cigar line. The company directs consumers to mobile-optimized sites created for select brands. "We’ve always paid great attention to detail when creating cigars," says, Alan Rubin, president, Alec Bradley Cigars. "In applying that same kind of detail to our advertising and point of sale material, we’ve seen a very positive response to the technology. In a very traditional industry, it is important to see how technology can be a powerful tool to enhance our customers’ experience, and this is only the beginning."
Many multi-channel marketing and document composition software providers now enable the creation of QR codes within their solutions.
Crawford Technologies offers QR Express, a module for its TransPromo Express product that enables the application of QR codes to bills, statements, and other transactional customer communications. This new module allows clients to set up automated processes to create and apply the codes in a matter of days.
InterlinkONE provides Qreate & Track, a solution that allows users to generate QR codes for Web sites, contact information, promotional codes, and more. Users are then able to publish them on printed materials and view real-time results through reporting dashboards. Pricing packages peak at $99 a month.
Lytrod Software enables the ability to create variable QR codes from transactional data streams including LCDS, delimited, and XML and integrate them into personalized applications including statement printing. Variable QR codes are created in Lytrod’s Variable Design Suite by making customized Web site addresses from information in the data and applying the QR code transform. Output is in either a PDF via Xerox’s FreeFlow VI PDF Originator or printed output via Xerox’s FreeFlow VI Interpreter.
Online Print Solutions provides QR code support. The OPS suite allows end users to customize the messaging in the QR codes while the QR code generator embeds the messaging on the printed piece. The codes can be generated on a one-to-one basis, featuring unique offers or links to pURLs targeted at individual recipients based on criteria such as age, gender, income, or location.
Many vendors, consumers, and marketers are taking advantage of the unique possibilities QR codes provide. Keep your eye out for these codes, download a QR reader, and see what the buzz is about!
Blackberry users can try BeeTag or UpCode from Blackberry App World. For the iPhone, try the NeoReader or BeeTag Reader Pro, both downloads are free from the App Store.