Next came the expectation that restaurants would use the codes to post nutritional information to keep it from cluttering the menu. QR codes turned out to be a terrific solution, providing an entire rundown of available nutritional information.
From creating harmony between menu designers and diet-conscious diners to making inventory-related activities easier, it seemed as if QR codes were settling into a respectable, low-profile career in the world.
Then, since approximately 2017, anyone with a smartphone could scan QR codes and be whisked to a digi-destination.
Now, COVID-19 and Gen Z digital natives are ushering in a new QR code attitude. Everyone’s figuring out how to make them worth the scan: accessing deals, jobs, feedback and—especially for restaurants—touchless menus, carry-out alerts, table availability and app downloads in exchange for rewards.
How can brands improve their relationship with these plucky little guys?
McDonald’s made a working QR code out of illustrated French fries, with a little golden arch tucked in the center. Encourage your creative team to play around with them. The edges of a QR code can be shaped, or the colors can change—as long as you observe the tech specs. So yeah, you don’t have to settle for the boring alien-crossword-looking thing.
There’s something humdrum about most practical uses—responsible, well-meant, dutiful. Certainly, you don’t want to distract or confuse people on their way to get what they came for, but all the same, the QR code can be another delivery system for your brand campaign. Use it to tie together all your messaging in one spot even as you deliver on the pragmatic promise of whatever prompted your customer to aim their phone and shoot.
You can figure out how well those marketing ideas in Point Number 2 are working, in terms of call-to-action, if you make QR codes essential to them—since the code makes it simple to trace and analyze activity.
Make quick adjustments
There are services that can track all kinds of information (right up to the “invasion of privacy” line) based on when/where/how often/etc. a customer scans a QR code—but one of the most useful bits of information is “what’s selling right now.” You can change around your offerings quickly in response to sales data—which, for a restaurant, means tweaks to the menu without an expensive reprint.
SEO is an alchemist’s domain—how websites are ranked and prioritized constantly changes, and it’s never totally clear to most of us what’s going to affect them. Kind of like our individual credit scores, most of us basically know what behaviors get rewarded; some wizards seem to possess additional arcane knowledge on the topic, but in the end, it’s a bit mysterious. In any case, getting more web traffic is a plus.
Don’t forget to keep building your database—to unlock certain kinds of deals it’s not unreasonable to ask your friends for their emails, or phone numbers for texts. Even if your proprietary app and rewards program isn’t quite up and running yet, you can still push out deals to people if they’ve shown they’re fans by bartering away their info.
It’s always exciting to be at the forefront of a technological blossoming. Considering the QR code technology was invented in 1994, it’s a little surprising that we’re entering the silver if not the golden age so late—but then, we just recently figured out what makes QR codes more than merely intriguing: the pandemic helped us understand why they’re necessary.