Email Marketing & QR Codes: 5 Ways To Use Them Together

If the UPC code was the salient product symbol icon of the last century, the QR code will surely represent the 21st century. This two-dimensional matrix barcode is universally readable by camera or scanner-equipped mobile devices, and is becoming so prominent it is featured on everything from magazine pages to billboards.

With the increasing popularity of mobile web access, QR codes are becoming an integral component to any successful email marketing strategy. Here are five ways to apply the synergy between email and QR codes to your brand's benefit. 

1. Integrate the QR code into your email content. Placing a QR code as an integral part of your email campaign content is a tip that should be adopted by any savvy marketer. The QR code in your email should link to a specific landing page that will facilitate your review of your tracking and analytics, allowing you to identify the precise response being provided by the mobile devices reading the code. 



2. Add the QR code into your email & forum signatures. In the same way that it was de rigueur to include a link to your landing or signup page in your email signatures in the last decade, including the QR code has become effectively mandatory in this decade. Each of your outgoing emails should feature a QR code at the bottom in the signature spot in order to assist readers in linking to your subscription or selling pages. An additional advantage of QR codes is that they are technically not conventional URL links, so that they can be used in forums that support images, but have their comments set up as nofollows.


3. Reward your best customers with a special QR code. Promoting a "members-only" presentation, special sale, or particular discount with QR codes in specifically selected emails can serve as a prominent response expediter. A good example is that you can segment out a list of subscribers who make larger or more frequent purchases, and reward them with a QR code in their emails that provides them with particular discounts or acts as an invitation to a VIP event. 

4. Link the QR code back to exclusive informational content. QR code-based rewards and access to specific content should not be limited to your elite customers, but can be extended to your entire subscriber base. The use of QR codes to link back to exclusive content such as case studies, white papers, how-tos, tips sheets, and other valuable product content present on your website can help drive response and sales. Educating your prospects while entertaining them is a hallmark of email marketing, and QR codes bring that strategy into focus. 

5. Unfold a promotional story over time with a QR code-enabled drip campaign. The efficiencies of drip campaigns can be maximized through the use of a different QR code in each email. This use of the code can lead your customer through a journey of discovery over time, assisting their familiarization with your brand image and philosophy. Constructing your QR code drip campaign as a chronologically unfolding story can draw in your audience and set up anticipation for the next entry. 

Even though it may at first seem like nothing more than a pixilated postage stamp, the QR code is here to stay and the use of these square matrixes has just begun to be explored in the email strategies of business owners and online marketers. Taking advantage of the myriad applications of QR codes will prove to be a boon to your mobile customers and your bottom line.

5 comments about "Email Marketing & QR Codes: 5 Ways To Use Them Together".
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  1. Tim Roman from USADATA, February 8, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.

    So you want people to open the email on their computer, snap the QR code with their phone, then go to a mobile landing page?

    Sounds like you are adding steps into the conversion process instead of making it easier for your subscribers to perform the desired action. I have a feeling this would be nothing but another distraction and kill conversion rates. Kind of like excessive social media links!

    The best use of QR codes for email marketing, and one not mentioned here, would be to place them places where people ONLY have access to their mobile device and can use the code to sign up for email campaigns.

  2. Marc Haseltine from National Geographic, February 9, 2011 at 1:15 a.m.

    I agree with your comments, Tim. Sending your best customers emails with VIP access, content or discounts that are only accessible via QR codes sounds pretty risky, but perhaps it's worked for others.

    Also, I would have thought that customers using their phones as QR code readers are probably also using their phones to read email. It seems like they'd have a problem when they receive one of these messages in their mobile inbox, unless they happen to have two mobile devices with them.

  3. Michelle Rutkowski, February 9, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.

    Marc I had the same reaction -- if you're sending QR codes in email, and the customer is reading said email on their smartphone, how would they snap a pix of the QR code - with their 2nd smartphone? Why wouldn't you just use one-click sourced links in the email to send the customer where you want them to go? I don't see how adding additional steps to an existing simple process is going to INCREASE response rates. If you're reading mail on a phone you've got web access on said phone.

    I love QR for print, OOH, POP, etc where the customer isn't inherently connected to the Internet at time of exposure. But email -- maybe I'm missing something but I don't get it.

  4. Nor Rafferty from Fordham University, February 11, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.

    I was amazed to see that you are suggesting to integrate the QR code in email. If I attach a QR code to my email, it is not clickable, so how would it work? The QR code image needs to have a camera snap a photo in order to get to more info, website, etc. QR codes work best in print, OOH media. I don't understand the benefit to having a QR code in an email. Does anyone else agree with me?

  5. Jacob Walsh from Christianity Today International, February 21, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.

    I don't think Hal is suggesting that you use QR codes as an alternative to links in email (although his first point does sound like that). If the QR code is used as a supplement in emails, it can only add value.

    For example, let's say Starbucks sends out an email promoting a new flavor of coffee. They could include a QR Code that functions as an exclusive coupon. Subscribers could snap a picture of their monitor and easily store the coupon on their phone, displaying it to the cashier the next time they go into a Starbucks. This kind of promotion would make email subscribers feel like they got a special deal, (and people also like to show off their tech-savvyness in public).

    Also, publishers should be including QR codes which link to digital issues and ebooks. The QR code would allow people to download the digital edition directly from their phone, saving themselves the time of ordering online.

    There are a lot of great applications of the QR code in email, and when they start adding cameras to tablet readers like the ipad and nook, this will be even more important.

    I think Hal may have over-emphasized its importance *now*, but it's certainly a good idea to get on board earlier rather than later.

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