A wine bottle with a QR code instead of a label. QR code usage is exploding, but are merchants using them as effectively as the could be?
Yesterday we tweeted about a NY Times article ’Out on the Town, Always Online’ which talked about how folks are increasingly plugged in, even while they’re out ‘being social’ with their friends. Of course, a lot of this social activity is focused around food and restaurants which is part of the reason we’re building SecondMenu.
The Digital Dining Experience
As a restauranteur, one of the questions you should to be asking is how can I engage digital natives throughout the digital dining experience? I would argue that the digital dining experience begins when a customer goes online to look for a place to eat, and ends when they write a review of your establishment and post it online in some capacity. We will write a separate post about the ‘digital dining experience’, but what I want to address in this post is whether the QR code is an integral part of this process.
QR codes are starting to appear everywhere. A QR code is basically a two dimensional barcode that you can scan with your smartphone. Just like a barcode contains product information, a QR code usually contains information about a URL and your smartphone will go to that URL when you scan the QR. The main benefit is that the person scanning the QR code doesn’t have to type in a really long URL, instead they can just scan the QR to access that page. If you want a more detailed description check out the QR wikipedia article.
Here at SecondMenu, one of the issues we see with the way merchants are using QR codes is that they make the wild assumption that customers already know what the QR code is, how to use it, and why they should scan it. Our answer to the question ‘Does your restaurant need a QR code?’ probably goes something like this: Yes, but give it context, provide an incentive for people to scan it and provide alternate ways to access the same content.
Some simple text with the QR code that reads ‘Scan this QR code with your smartphone to find out [something cool] ’ goes a long way.
Giving it Context
It is not unusual to see a QR code plastered to a product without any context at all. Just yesterday I saw a horrendous use of a QR code on a wine bottle – the QR code was actually there in place of the wine label! If a customer does not know what the QR code is, they will not appreciate its meaning and will just see a big pixelated square where they could have seen something much more engaging. What does this mean for your restaurant? As a restauranteur, a QR code can be a very useful tool to engage your customers but use it tastefully and make sure customers know what it is and why its there. Some simple text with the QR code that reads ‘Scan this QR code with your smartphone to find out [something cool]’ goes a long way. Including your logo or a fun symbol inside the QR code can also make it look more branded and create additional customer engagement.
Most smart phones such as the iPhone do not have a native QR scanning application, which means that customers that have never scanned a QR code must download an app before they can do so. If you are serious about getting customers to scan your QR code, give them a helping hand. List a couple of apps that they can scan with, and integrate the QR code with a set of simple illustrated instructions about how to use it.
Have fun with your QR, discovering new things is part of the dining experience and a huge reason customers love to use their smartphones!
Create an Incentive
Finally, and perhaps most critically, what is the customers incentive to scan the QR code? A recent Urbanscale study participant put it succinctly: “I’ve already seen the ad, and now I’m going to spend my data plan on watching your commercial? No thanks.” Ask yourself, what is the reason a customer is will scan this QR? In the case of a restaurant, a customer could receive a discount or find out some ‘privileged’ information that is not otherwise available. Maybe there is a special menu item that they can access by scanning, a deal or tip about something cool. Have fun with your QR, discovering new things is part of the dining experience and a huge reason customers love to use their smartphones!
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