Given the accelerated momentum of connected TV usage and advertising — and direct-to-consumer initiatives — since the pandemic exploded in late March, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that brands’ use of QR codes to facilitate consumer engagement has also surged.
The first quarter saw the usual light usage of QR codes, with only a handful of advertisers running the format, reports Innovid, the omnichannel platform that boasts serving 50% of all U.S. CTV impressions.
But come Q2, the number of advertisers using the codes grew by 160%, and QR impressions rose 62%, in comparison with the year-ago quarter. In Q3, QR impressions were up by 130% versus Q2 2020. The trend has continued into Q4, with October impressions equaling a third of all QR impressions generated in the previous quarter.
We asked Stephanie Geno, senior vice president, marketing at Innovid, for some more context.
Why is use of QR codes growing in CTV in particular?
Geno: We believe it’s directly tied to the new reality we’re facing. QR codes are no-contact by design, so they allow for payment without having to touch a keypad or someone else’s screen to sign. With TV, with the growth of targetable CTV viewing in particular, brands have seen that QR codes are a great way to turn a commercial view directly into an online action and capture that customer data — turning traditionally “awareness only” television into a D2C channel.
Are QR codes being used much to drive ecommerce, and in-store-visits and sales?
Geno: Across the board, brands are looking for ways to collapse the purchase funnel and get viewers to their sites faster — especially brands that have been affected by restrictions on in-person shopping, or feel that the in-store experience they can offer just isn’t the same now.
Brands are using QR codes for a variety of business objectives, but the most common at present, in our experience, is to drive people to their websites to learn more about a product or offer.
We can’t speak to sales results, because we don’t have access to clients' sales data. But we can also verify that marketers are moving toward action-based outcomes like website traffic, adding products to their cart, app downloads and purchase.
Any examples of recent use that you can share?
Geno: Sure, Lovesac is a good recent example. The company was looking for unique ways to drive online conversions from connected TV to their website for their line of Sactionals. We designed an interactive branded canvas featuring a product carousel that highlighted the customizable nature of the furniture line and other key features. Within the carousel, viewers were invited to scan a QR code on mobile to get more information via Lovesac’s website. Once on the site, users were invited to build their own Sactional arrangement.
The campaign drove 1,220 code scans, representing two times the benchmark engagement rate for QR codes across our customers.
What's the argument for QR codes over other interface options? Some tech types seem to characterize them as a rather clunky solution.
Geno: QR codes are the technology of the moment, but they’re by no means a perfect solution to mapping conversions to TV.
Other options include entering your phone number or email to receive a text with a link, or an email with an offer. But the data-entry necessity is not only awkward, which is a potential response suppressor; it can also make consumers wonder how their information might be used. QR code is faster and requires no data entry.
Another option is just to put the website's URL on-screen, which we can do by adding a simple overlay. But without a unique URL, it’s impossible to map how many conversions actually came from the commercial. And getting people to type in a unique URL in the moment is very difficult. The incentive for manually typing in the URL in versus just Googling the website has to be very high.
TV measurement still has a long way to go to tie a user viewing a commercial directly to site side actions like purchases. QR codes are an easy way to begin to map that now.