How QR Codes Are Transforming Direct Mail Into A Data Gold Mine

Brianne Baggetta

Let’s face it… In today’s marketing landscape, offline marketing gets a bad rep. It’s often seen as an outdated option with limited data and reporting capabilities.

Direct mail is no exception to this rule. As one of the oldest forms of marketing, it’s often written off by marketers for this very reason. As a whole, direct mail truly has lagged behind the rest of the marketing industry in terms of targeting, personalization, and proof of ROI.

But direct mail’s lack of priority status in media plans is about to change. In fact, the true data-driven players are already using direct mail in new and innovative ways. The big driver of change? QR codes.

What is a QR code?

QR Code

It seems like QR codes are absolutely everywhere these days. Posters, billboards, restaurant tables, business cards…even in the sky! It’s no wonder they’re becoming more popular. 

We’ve all seen them before. But what exactly is a QR code, and how does it work?

A QR code, short for quick response code, is basically a type of barcode that directs you to online content. In the past, you needed a special app on your phone to scan a QR barcode. But now, most people can conveniently use their smartphone camera to complete the scan process. This is what is making QR codes more relevant and accessible than ever before. 

Each code contains information about an item that is linked or attached to the code. This information appears once someone scans the code. If the QR code is attached to a URL, you would need an internet connection in order to open the attachment.

QR codes are the ultimate way to link the offline and online worlds. Rapidly growing in popularity in the marketing landscape, their incorporation in direct mail is making a big splash.

How are QR codes being used in direct mail?

QR code data

For the direct mail industry, QR codes have been sorely needed for a long time. And while they were actually invented back in 1994, they weren’t widely used until recently. Especially in direct mail.

The most common way that QR codes are being used in direct mail is by incorporating them into calls-to-action. A mail piece only has so much space, so QR codes open up the opportunity to link to additional content. 

Another benefit is convenience. We all know that customer experience is key, so why not make it easy on your audience with a quick and simple way to take the next step? Instead of having to manually type in a website, a QR code connects you instantaneously.

And it gets better! QR codes also provide the one thing that is like gold to all marketers: data. By using a QR code on direct mail, marketers create an entirely new layer of data (more on this later). 

Even more exciting is the augmented reality QR code. While not widely used yet, this interactive option is a compelling way to further engage an audience.

What data is provided by QR codes? 

Let’s get to the important stuff, the reason you probably clicked on this blog post. What data points and tracking capabilities can QR codes add to direct mail? The short answer is…a lot.

Depending on which QR code provider you use, you’ll be able to access a ton of rich data that standalone direct mail can’t give you. Expect to receive total vs. unique scans, scans by operating system, scans by location (city and country), the operating system used to scan, and more.

Each of these data points is amplified even more when your QR code is attached to a PURL. In direct mail, a PURL一short for personalized URL一is made possible by variable printing. Leveraging PURLs enables marketers to create a unique QR code for each recipient that will take your strategy to the next level. 

Instead of accessing aggregated campaign data, a QR code with a PURL will allow you to actually track behavior on an individual consumer basis. Now that’s a game changer.

To personalize your QR codes on a large scale, it’s best to select a QR code provider with an API. Also check to ensure that it links with Google Analytics.

What CTAs are being used for QR Codes on direct mail?

QR codes are versatile, which makes them even more valuable for marketing purposes. In addition to driving traffic to a simple URL, you can also attach QR codes to virtual business cards, PDFs, social media, payment platforms, videos, surveys, apps, and even songs. The possibilities are endless.

Apart from being interactive and convenient, QR codes don’t actually change direct mail’s calls-to-action all that much. Think of a generic marketing funnel for prospecting. You’ll move consumers further down the funnel using similar tactics, with the added benefit of better tracking.

Direct Mail QR Code

 

Recommendations for success

There’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. Chances are, you’re not going to get it right the first time. QR codes are fairly new territory in marketing, so it’s going to take some experimentation to get it right.

The good news is that you can accelerate the learning process with some good old-fashioned A/B testing. In addition to experimenting with the types of content, targeting, design, and calls-to-action that you use, you can also switch up the actual look of the QR code.

QR examples

Chances are, you won’t get statistically significant results for smaller campaigns. But with larger quantities, you’ll really be able to tell who the true winner is.

Key takeaways

If you’ve never incorporated QR codes into a direct mail campaign, it’s worth giving it a shot. It truly adds another dimension to this old-school, offline marketing medium. 

Remember that if the results aren’t there at first, try again! It takes some experimentation but when you are successfully able to connect the offline and online worlds, it’s marketing magic.

 

This guest blog was written by Brianne Baggetta at The Mailworks.









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