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QR Codes and the USPS Discount

QR code to ASPE-ROI's Google Online Marketing Boot Camp

A few months ago I wrote a post about why direct mail should still be used in marketing, and that an integrated mix is the best way to approach a marketing campaign. I guess the United State Postal Service is catching on. In their recent proposal for a 3% discount for mail containing a two-dimensional barcode (i.e. QR code), they state one of the conditions as: “The objective of the two-dimensional mobile barcode on eligible mail pieces must be to initiate interaction with consumers via mobile smart phones to market, promote, or educate.”

[UPDATE: the Postal Regulatory Committee approved the discount on May 17, 2011. The discount is valid from July 1-August 31, 2011.]

So what does this mean? First it means even though 3% isn’t a huge discount, it’s recognition by the USPS that they need to attach themselves to the growth and future of marketing. But the USPS, even if they aren’t aware of it, is also doing a service for companies that may not be ahead of the marketing curve. Direct mail marketing needs to embrace interactive marketing to involve the customers more. Troy Forget, senior marketing manager, Staples Advantage, stated in a recent Direct Mail Marketing article that, “…the interactive print sector is helping companies engage prospects with technology that print alone cannot accomplish.” I wholeheartedly agree.

ASPE started putting QR codes on mailed brochures at the beginning of this year. Right now, the majority of our QR codes take you to the course page for that specific brochure. While we haven’t had overwhelming results with traffic coming to our website from QR codes, we’ve had a 50% increase in usage of the codes from February to April. That’s enough for us to develop more, and better, ways to integrate them.

What’s the caveat? You need to use QR codes correctly. Don’t slap a code on your mail piece just to save you some money on postage, use it to your advantage. Here are some simple things things to start with to make QR codes useful:

  1. Make sure your QR code goes to a relevant web page. What do I mean by that? If your direct mail piece focuses on a promotion you’re running, don’t link the QR code to your homepage where the customer will have to dig through three layers of your site just to find what they were looking for. Link the QR code to the valuable content they want: the promotion page. Better yet, create a specific page just for mobile device use and link to that.
  2. Create a specific link or landing page so you can measure the traffic coming to your site directly from the QR code. It can tell you a lot about your customers – what devices they are using, how long someone using a smart phone stays on your site, in what cities people are actively using this technology.
  3. TEST, TEST, TEST. Does it work for multiple smart phones with multiple apps? Is it linking to the correct page? When the link pops up, does it shorten it to something it shouldn’t? (Recently when I tested a few, the link title kept coming up as “Katie.” I didn’t realize the site I used to create the code titled the link with the name on your account unless you change it. Oops. The sites I use now are Kaywa and QR.net)

So if you’re not currently using QR-Codes, catch up with the times. Even the USPS is doing it.

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