Shoppers Spurn Social, QR Codes

Brian-CohenAs much as people embrace all things digital, they’re much fussier when they turn into actual shoppers. In fact, QR codes and social media have very little impact, according to new research from Catapult Action-Biased Marketing, a Westport, Conn.-based researcher. Brian Cohen, director of digital shopper marketing, fills Marketing Daily in on what seems to work now, and why.

Q: So what was the big surprise in your study?

A: We looked at 1,200 consumers, and the role that social media is playing is not as large as we thought it would be. It’s a good consumer and advocacy tool, and it builds brand awareness. But once the mindset shifts to shopping, she is not going to Facebook, or to blogs. We keep saying to clients, “Don’t forget the boring,” because she is going to traditional sites, such as the brand’s site or Google. On larger-ticket purchases, she is increasingly going to ratings and reviews.



Q: And QR codes?

A: It’s a prime example of a technology developed by marketers first, and not with shoppers in mind. In the first place, there are still many people without smartphones, so you’re already saying, “You can’t play” to a big chunk of the population. And then among smartphone owners, there’s already a tremendous amount of fatigue, and usage of the codes is down 20% since we did the last study. We are always recommending an alternate entry whenever they are used, such as a Web site. And so often, what they are delivering isn’t really interesting or useful.

Q: So what are some effective uses of QR codes?

A: Marketers just need to think more about mind states. For example, a subway ad with a code that leads to a photo of model Brooklyn Decker -- that means something to users. In the ketchup it sells to restaurants, Heinz has a QR code on the bottle. So people are sitting around eating and have time to pursue it. Basically, shoppers are usually in two mindsets: Will it save me time? Will it save me money? QR codes may save people money, but they don’t save time.

Q: So what do shoppers really want?

A: The piece of data that excites me the most in this study is the understanding that digital tools in general are delivering against more need states than just “save time” or “save money,” even if marketers don’t realize it. For example, traditional store circulars rank higher for “gives me new ideas” than “saves me money.” So we are wrong about how we are using this tool. It shouldn’t just be coupons -- it should have a video or a recipe or something engaging. Paperless coupons deliver 17% higher on “rewards me” than “saves me money.”

Q: You found people still have major privacy concerns. Can you explain?

A: Yes, privacy is a tremendous concern, with 74% of the shoppers we surveyed expressing some level of concerns, and 23% saying they are extremely concerned. But what they claim to be worried about and how they act aren’t the same. It doesn’t seem to be slowing anybody down using digital tools.

7 comments about "Shoppers Spurn Social, QR Codes".
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  1. michael ayer from RIGINAIR, January 10, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

    So, is it safe to say that shoppers respond decently to facebook and QR codes, but when its time to actually shop they go to a product or company site? Interesting.

  2. Antony McGregor Dey from Link.Me, January 10, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.

    At we help brands build a database of their customers after the sale. A tag will unlock bonus content, how-to videos, and offers from the brand. We use this data to give brands a better understanding of, and build a connection with, those who are buying their products at a retail level. We've seen fantastic results in Publishing especially with up-to a 20% response rate of total product sales in the teen category.

  3. Alan Charlesworth from the UK, January 11, 2012 at 6:25 a.m.

    Some interesting stuff. Any chance of the name - or link to - the report/study?

  4. Mark Kolier from moddern marketing, January 11, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.

    I am intrigued as to how someone would scan and use a QR code on a subway where there is no internet access.

  5. Ronnie Perchik from PromoAid, LLC, January 11, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.

    Great insight. Congrats to Catapult for highlighting that basic blocking and tackling still moves the marketing needle.

  6. Tim Hayden from Edelman, January 12, 2012 at 11:19 a.m.

    Valid points all the way around, Sarah. We also saw QR code scanning volumes go down in Q4, attributing it more to the known fact that shoppers have specific intentions during the Holidays (read: not "shopping", but "buying"). The same could be said for social media in this timeframe.

    2011 was fraught with misuse and abuse of social media and experimental mobile marketing that often translated into bad customer experiences...

    Bottom line, the integrated and well-thought out application of emerging media/tools will prevail over the reckless use of shiny new objects.

  7. Maruchi Santana from Parham Santana, January 14, 2012 at 4:50 p.m.

    Love Clint's comment: "you socialize to relax, escape life... Learn what the consumers want"
    I have found in-magazine QR codes effective because they are an extension of the experience.

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