QR Explosion: Retail And Tech Lead Among 2,300 Mobile Code Advertisers in 2011

Godaddy-DanicaPatrick-QR-code-B2QR and other mobile codes seem to be appearing everywhere. In fact, only 6% of ads carried a mobile code in the last quarter of 2011, according to Competitrack and its new survey of 7,300 mobile-activated ads it catalogued last year. But that 6% of ads represented enormous growth from the 1% that occupied January issues.

Overall, Competitrack says more than 2,300 advertisers used 2D codes in their ads last year. The tactic remains primarily a print approach. According to company president Bob Moss: “We were monitoring 2D codes in six media: TV print, outdoor, online display, online video and opt-in email. But about 96% of the codes we found were running in print.” Among the 11,000 outdoor ads Competitrack monitored in 24 markets, only 175 carried mobile codes.   

Select advertisers are making very heavy use of the method for linking physical advertising with virtual assets. Competitrack counted 85% of Oppenheimer Funds ads having codes, 71% of Next Day Blinds ads and 68% of Tag Heuer ads. On a monthly basis, 2D code use jumped markedly in the final quarter of the year, peaking throughout September through December for magazine issues at 6% of all ads.

Retail advertisers accounted for 21.9% of ad code use in print. In fact, retail, technology (13.6%), financial services (6.7%) and cosmetics & personal care (6.3%) accounted for more than half of codes.

Home Depot emerged as the clear leader in code use, as Competitrack located 121 campaigns that featured the approach. The home building and remodeling supplies retailer was especially adept at using the context of their weekly circulars to offer specific calls to action that telegraphed to users what specialized content they would receive from a 2D code. The Competitrack report even singled out Home Depot for using simple URLs that produced clean and clear QR codes that were easier to scan on many phone models.    

While other code types struggle for a toehold in the print market, advertisers continue to favor QR overwhelmingly -- found in 87.8% of ads. Microsoft’s Tag platform is a distant second at 10.2%, with others such as JagTag, SnapTag, EZ Code and Datamatrix Code each accounting for less than .5% of use.

With mobile codes, it all comes down to the user experience and whether advertisers are delivering something that makes the user interaction worth the effort. With the heavy use of codes among retailers, it is not surprising that 40.7% of these activations led consumers to product information, a brand’s site or a purchase opportunity. But many marketers were focusing their landing experiences on branding efforts, with 23.2% of codes leading to some kind of engagement experience. Another 12.7% led to video, with some involving branding or product illustration. Only 7.8% of these placements led to sign-ups for continued communications with the brand or for contests. Another 3% led to social network activities such as “liking” or “following” a brand. Only 2.2% initiated an app download and even fewer (1%) rendered a coupon.

Competitrack is maintaining a database of 2D code advertisers and their campaigns. The full report is available at their site

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1 comment about "QR Explosion: Retail And Tech Lead Among 2,300 Mobile Code Advertisers in 2011 ".
  1. Johhn O'Farrell from Interactive Marketer and ECommerce Professional , March 1, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.
    I’ll preface my comments that they are based on my own personal experiences, observations and ad hoc “research”. 6% Print Penetration. Don’t hope for that to grow much. Advertisers through poor execution of mobile user experience are sealing the fate of QR codes and it does not look good for the QR industry. Why you ask: 1) Poor user experience is the rule of thumb 2) Not many people know what QR codes are or what to do with them 3) Low penetration of QR readers 1)Poor user experience is the rule of thumb As an ad hoc “research” project any QR code I come across and have the time/opportunity to scan, I do. Approx 95% of the websites I am delivered to are not optimized for a mobile device (I’m using an iPhone 4S) and very often the landing page does not deliver against the advertisement. In many cases I am delivered to the “desktop homepage” of the advertiser. Either way the page is too small to read and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How many times will the consumer go through this before they say “QR Code, don’t waste your time” (Most recent exceptions to this “GoDaddy and Visit Arkansas) This is the crux of the issue. If we as advertisers don’t fix this now the two points below will become unfixable. One bad experience maybe they will try again. Two bad experiences, highly unlikely they will try again. Three bad experiences…”how do you delete this app?” 2)Not many people know what QR codes are or what to do with them In my ad hoc “research” I will often ask a fellow commuter (who I randomly sit down or stand next too) “Do you know what that is?” if a QR code is within site. Without fail I get one of two answers: A) “I have no idea” OR B) “Not sure, some kind of way to get some more information or something”. When I follow up with “how does it work?”, I’m told “I don’t know, I’ve never done it”. 3) Low penetration of QR readers Besides my interactive marketing coworkers (and not all of them) I don’t know anyone who has a QR code reader and I ask this question a lot. 18 months ago when I was running the interactive practice at a leading design firm, one client wanted (insisted) that we use QR codes in the print component of a project we were working on. To test various platform / QR reader experiences I had the entire staff (designers, strategists, developers, writers, admin etc) download a QR reader on their smart phone. I mention that to point out that no one had a QR reader on their phone, including myself (at the time a iPhone 3G). Most had to be instructed on what they were and how to use them. Unless this changes the QR is headed for the "if only" junk pile in the USA (yes I know they are often used in the Far East and other parts of the world)