The return of the QR code and its implications for the customer experience

PHOTO: ray rui | unsplash

From the age when I could grow hair until about 13 years old, I had one of the most ridiculous 1980s mullet haircuts you could imagine. We are talking about the Joe Exotic Tiger King type of mule. A hairstyle made infamous in the 1980s stuck with me through the 90s through the early 2000s and eventually retired once college dances became a thing. Fast forward to 2021, and according to Cosmetify, the mullet was the most searched hairstyle of 2021.

What I mean here is this: things that initially seemed like good ideas, but didn’t turn out the way you thought, sometimes come back into the mainstream.

Sort of like QR codes.

The revival of the QR code

If you’re like me and have watched the Super Bowl — more specifically, the Super Bowl commercials — I’m sure you’ve seen the 30-second commercial for Coinbase that simply had a QR code bouncing on our TV screens. . Stock X and other brands also had well-placed QR codes.

What’s interesting about this approach is that QR codes never really took off after their popularity in 2010. Why? Well, for many reasons, but the biggest one is that mobile technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, and consumers weren’t using their devices in all the ways they are doing today. So QR codes have taken a long vacation, only to be resurrected by – yes, you guessed it – COVID-19.

The pandemic has radically changed consumer behavior in a very short time. Restaurants, bars and retail businesses have all been hit as they were forced to close during the lockdown. Once some of the restrictions were lifted and they were allowed to reopen, they had to do so in a way that kept customers safe. Tables spaced six feet apart, masks for employees, plenty of hand sanitizer and of course – QR-enabled menus.

As restrictions began to ease, QR codes stuck with these businesses and their customers. This new option for viewing information was turning into a learned behavior that consumers felt comfortable with. Unlike previous attempts to stick QR codes, this time the company was ready, thanks to advances in mobile technology – and the outright mobile usage that consumers use every day.

Related article: It’s time to update your QR code marketing strategy

Use the 3-L cycle to deliver the best customer experiences

So what’s the big takeaway here? That’s how I see it.

The company has become familiar with the use of QR codes during the pandemic. So expect this form of content consumption to remain a staple for brands in the future. When looking to incorporate QR codes to deliver the best customer experiences, take advantage of the 3-L cycle model below:

  • Listen: Listen to your customers’ behaviors and needs. What type of experiences do they require? How can you create something that piques their interest in the area they expect?
  • Leverage: Leverage the technology your business has to create these experiences. If the technology doesn’t currently exist within your organization, expand it, but make sure it matches what you’ve learned from listening to your customers.
  • To learn: Deploy and launch experiments, then track the results to determine how well your approach aligns with your customer’s expectations. However, keep in mind that consumer expectations are constantly changing. Being able to monitor behaviors over time will give you a window into the experiences you’ve created to determine if they’re still relevant to your customers or if they’ve started to deteriorate. In the latter case, you will again need to pivot the experience to realign yourself with your customers’ expectations, which will bring you back to the “Listen” phase of the cycle.

What I’m trying to make is that innovation is often forced and driven by unexpected circumstances. An unexpected event like Miley Cyrus flaunting a new mullet hairstyle made this category of haircuts extremely popular last year. Or, in the case of QR codes – a mass pandemic hit the world and we were forced to be open to new ways of digesting content and experiences.

Charles Baudelaire once wrote: “Through the unknown we will find the new. Events like COVID-19 are unknown and unexpected, but through events like these we find new ways of doing things. And sometimes these new ways of doing things resurrect old approaches to meet new needs.

Justin Racine is a Principal Commerce Consultant at Perficient, a global digital consulting firm serving enterprise clients across North America. At Perficient, Justin helps clients achieve their business goals with commerce-driven technology.

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