By Published On: December 11, 2020

The use of QR codes is back – in a big way. If you’re not currently using them in your marketing campaigns, you might be missing opportunities. They offer flexibility, creativity, and more importantly, may increase response rates.

QR (Quick Response) codes have been around for years. They were developed in Japan in 1994 as a way to streamline the automobile manufacturing process by tracking vehicles and parts. QR codes look like a square barcode, but they can contain a lot more information such as website links, geographic coordinates, images or text.

Marketing and QR Codes

The use of QR codes in marketing is not new, it just wasn’t very successful until the last few years. Prior to 2017, a special QR code reader was required to open the code and access the content. The user had to download an app that allowed them to read the code from a mobile device.  Even then, the ability to open the code was not consistent.

Two factors have significantly changed how we use QR codes, our attitudes towards them, and future implications: 1) Both Apple and Android operating systems now support native QR scanning in their base camera apps, and 2) the Covid-19 pandemic.

The technology advance was the game changer as now almost anyone with a phone can instantly scan and access content. However, the pandemic increased awareness and use of QR codes with the general public as people try to avoid germs by using touch-free alternatives such as digital menus and contactless payments. Acceptance is further enhanced since payment platforms Venmo and PayPal have touchless payment options powered by QR codes.

Ways to Use QR Codes

QR codes are used in business and marketing in a multitude of ways:

  • Linking to a website or landing page – home page, product pages, data collection, applications pages etc.
  • Downloading apps
  • E-commerce – accessing discounts, coupons, and promotions
  • Delivering augmented reality content
  • Accessing company details, dialing the number directly, or providing location information/directions
  • Sending emails and messages upon user request (scanning of the code)
  • Directing to social media platforms
  • Payment processing

Using QR Codes in Direct Mail

Of the many uses of QR codes , it is the integration of offline, online and mobile that is particularly effective. This blending of traditional and digital media has many benefits.  Here’s why you should consider using QR codes in your next direct mail campaign:

  • Creates a holistic customer experience – allows your customer to interact with your brand in a number of ways, provides choices.
  • Reaches the mobile-centric customer in another channel
  • Encourages customer engagement
  • Saves time and energy for your customer or prospect – eliminates the need to type in long URLs or make phone calls.
  • Provides the flexibility to add additional detail /real-time information
  • Allows for more detailed information to be included that wouldn’t easily fit in a printed piece.
  • Easily measurable
  • May increase response/conversion rates

Direct Mail Examples

Synchrony Bank and Comenity Bank have used QR codes in an interesting and helpful way in their direct mail.  Comperemedia and Brand United provided these examples:

The Synchrony Bank CD was promoted as a way to reach one’s savings goals by locking in a guaranteed rate of return. Instead of providing the interest rate on the campaign mailer, which could have changed by the time the mail piece reached the prospect, Synchrony added a QR code and the prompt to “scan for current rate.” This allowed the recipient to get the most up-to-date, real-time rate and avoid the frustration of learning the offer they received was no longer available.


QR code on a Synchrony Bank direct mail campaign

Comenity Bank, the issuer of the Wayfair online store credit card, utilizes a QR code on paper statements sent to customers as a quick payment option, bypassing the need to log into one’s account or remember any passwords. When the QR code is scanned, the payment screen is automatically loaded with the correct account holder’s information and the option to make a one-click payment using pre-stored payment details.


QR code on Comenity Bank direct mail account statement

The use of the QR code for the rate information in the Synchrony acquisition mailing not only made for a better experience for the prospect, but it also likely allowed the creative to use more straightforward copy and contain less legal disclosure. Comenity’s use of the QR code as a payment tool makes paying a bill easy and fast. It saves the customer time and hassle, thereby supporting and empowering customers in their journey and promoting retention and advocacy.

Tips for Using QR Codes

There are some simple steps that can be taken to use QR codes effectively in direct mail:

  • Include multiple options for calls to action. Not everyone has a smart phone or prefers to use this channel.
  • Put careful consideration into how you use the code. It might be tempting to link directly to an application or purchase option, but perhaps greater consideration or research is required for your product or service in this phase of the customer journey and a product page, live chat option or other information source may be more appropriate.
  • Be clear as to what the QR code will provide/where you are directing someone
  • Make sure the destination you direct the consumer to is relevant and accurate as to what is promised.
  • Incorporate tests (list/offer/creative) and continue to refine to achieve learnings and maximize results.

Using QR codes in direct mail is a way to create a multi-channel campaign and utilize marketing spend. Used creatively, QR codes can support your brand, trigger an immediate response or provide the customer with a unique or time saving experience.

About the Author: Sheryl Doyle

Sheryl Doyle
A problem solver by nature, Sheryl loves working with clients to solve a tough marketing challenge. She gets to the heart of it by first uncovering their real business needs and then works to develop marketing-based solutions. As if they were an extension of her family, she strongly advocates for her clients and keeps their best interests at heart. With her broad base of marketing knowledge and experience, ability to see the big picture, and knack for managing the details, Sheryl marshals the right resources and confidently wrangles the process to ensure a successful outcome every time.
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