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Transitioning real-world marketing activities into the digital marketing space:

Using QR codes and NFC tags to drive enquiries and conversions.

Using QR code and NFC to drive digital conversations

So, you’ve spent lots of money on your website and digital marketing, but a large part of what you do sits in the ‘real’ world. Perhaps you’ve got physical premises, maybe you send a lot of letters, or even just use business cards.

Whether your physical presence amounts to a little or a lot of your business, getting your real-world and digital presences talking to one another is one of the best ways to supercharge your marketing.

How?

QR Codes and NFC.

They sound technical (and they are) but taking the time to set them up well is worth the investment.

But before you can set them up, you have to know what they are, what they can do, and the key differences between them.

Let’s start with the definitions…

QR and NFC, what’s the difference?

QR

QR Codes are those little black and white barcode squares you see all over the place these days.

The overwhelming majority of people recognise them, even if they don’t know exactly what they’re called. They can store a massive amount of information. You can use them for anything from directing a customer to a website landing page to downloading information at an exhibit in a museum.

Most recently, they’ve been used heavily by NHS Test and Trace, so people are quite used to scanning them.

NFC Tags

NFC Tags or Near Field Communication Tags are a little more obscure, though chances are you’ve used them many times (Google and Apple pay commonly use them).

They’re a type of radio-frequency technology that allows transmission of data between tag and device when one is near the other. Historically, they’ve been used to process payments. But in recent years, marketers have begun to explore the nearly limitless potential of NFC Tags for social media promotions and more besides.

Using QR Codes and NFC Tags in your marketing

Both QR Codes and NFC Tags come with their fair share of ups and downs, and each lends itself to being used in different ways.

Here’s a breakdown:

Advantages of using QR Codes for marketing

The fact that QR codes are almost universally recognisable makes them a solid choice to connect your physical and digital marketing presence. Because they’re so common, they’re largely considered trustworthy. This trustworthiness increases the likelihood that your audience will interact with your QR code. Not only that, but the majority of smartphone cameras have a built-in QR scanning feature so they won’t have to download third-party apps or similar to consume your content.

The advantages don’t end there. You can set up a QR code for free, in seconds on one of the numerous websites that offer QR code generators. Once you’ve created your code and are ready to deploy it in the real world, all you need to do is print it on the relevant material.

Disadvantages of using QR codes for marketing

QR Codes do have their downsides. Most of which hinges on one point- their accessibility.

Because QR Codes are basically a one-time barcode, you can’t change or modify them in any way once they’ve been made. So if you want to change the URL of the website you code is pointing to, you’ll have to generate a new code. Not a huge deal, of course, but still a minor headache.

The design of your code is also limited to what can be read by the camera. Frankly, if you want to guarantee your code can be read by everyone (you do) the easiest option is to go with black and white.

Alternatively, you can use dynamic QR codes or combine them with link shortener services. This is handy should you need to change the address that they point to at a later date. However, you need to make this decision before you start printing, and it does make the setup more complicated.

Finally, you need to consider security. Criminals love QR codes for the very same reason businesses do. They take seconds to set up, and you can direct your user just about anywhere- including to a malicious page designed to steal data or deliver malware and viruses. If you use a lot of QR codes in your physical marketing, particularly if you have premises, keep your eyes peeled for codes popping up that you don’t quite recognise. It’s also best to avoid using QR codes to direct your customers to places where they input sensitive information.

Example applications

  • A link to your website on your business card
  • Promotion or discount codes
  • A link directing your customer to leave a review on a product slip
  • Sign up for mailing lists
  • Affiliate points of sale

NFC Tags for marketing

Advantages of using NFC Tags for marketing

NFC Tags are convenient. Provided the user’s device is NFC enabled, all they need to do to receive the information is “tap” (get close to) the tag. They’re also extremely secure because they’re so easy to encrypt. That’s why they’re so popular as a payment medium. Plus, it’s next to impossible for a hacker or criminal to intercept the data because the range of the signal is a few inches at best.

They’re also highly customisable. NFC Tags aren’t limited by the need to be read by a camera. This means you’re free to customise your design to your heart’s content because the content is on the chip and not embedded in the image. Also, once you have your NFC Tag in place, it’s relatively simple for someone with the skills and know-how to modify it, and this is a big time-saver.

Disadvantages of using NFC Tags for marketing

Not every smartphone or device can read an NFC Tag. This can be a problem, especially if you want to deliver content to as much of your audience as possible. That said, the number of NFC Tag enabled devices continues to grow every year. So this probably won’t be all that much of a negative for long.

For context, NFC first appeared in a smartphone in 2006 in the Nokia 6131, and the first android device to have the ability to communicate via NFC was from Andriod in 2010. Since then even smartwatches can communicate via NFC.

There’s also the upfront investment to consider. NFC Tags require specialised equipment (a microchip and aerial). Plus unless you’re a hardware wizard, you’re going to have to pay for someone to code the chip for you or you’re going to have to bulk-order them in one set of coding.

Example applications

  • Loyalty point collection at physical venues
  • Secure access to your email list signup page
  • Smart posters to direct interested customers to relevant online offerings.

How do you know which is right for you?

Whether you choose QR Codes, NFC Tags, or both will depend on what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.

QR Codes are great for one time campaigns where you don’t need to process sensitive information. They’re cheap and easy to produce en-mass, ideal if you’re trialling something new or A/B testing. They’re also incredibly versatile and can be included on business cards, posters, leaflets and menus. Basically anything flat that you can print on.

NFC Tags are better if you have a long-term investment in mind. The cost of equipment and coding, whilst not prohibitive, is substantially greater than all but the most expansive QR code campaigns. However, once you’ve made that investment tweaking the content or information they provide is relatively straightforward. The security can’t be ignored either. If you’re planning to handle sensitive data in your campaign; whether that’s card details or simply customer names, NFC Tags are the way to go.

In short:

If you’re looking for a fire-and-forget method to reach a lot of customers, fast QR codes are the way to go.

If you’re looking to handle sensitive information, or have a ‘hard’ marketing offering (think: branded travel cups, pens etc.) where you can embed a microchip, and you have the budget for the investment pick NFC.

 

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