Enhance Direct Mail with QR Codes

Technology allows CUs to engage immediately with consumers.

February 13, 2012

You don’t have to travel far these days to see how smartphones have affected society. Walk into a deli during lunchtime or a commuter train station anytime and it seems like at least half of the people there are glued to the small screen in their palm.

According to comScore, 82.2 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones as of July 2011, up 10% from the preceding three-month period. For credit unions, it only makes sense to look for ways to engage with consumers through the growing mobile channel.

One of the hottest technologies to emerge for mobile is the Quick Response (QR) code. These two-dimensional codes drive users from printed material to online content via smartphones.

Direct mail has been an important channel for credit unions wanting to attract new members or grow their share of wallet among current members.

QR codes can enhance already powerful direct mail campaigns, turning a printed direct mail piece into an instant interactive mobile response and allowing static messages to become a hyperlink to just about anything online.

Awareness and use of QR codes continues to rise. A study by comScore found that in June 2011, about 14 million U.S. mobile users scanned a QR code on their mobile device. These codes are appearing in magazines and on billboards, customer statements, in-store displays, and numerous other venues.

While the momentum of QR codes is continually picking up steam, there remains untapped potential as well as errors in how they’re being used.

Many marketers, for example, have used QR codes to link to general websites rather than to information relevant to the marketing materials the codes are printed on—and too frequently the websites aren’t optimized for mobile devices.

We have found a number of ways credit unions can integrate QR codes into their direct mail campaigns to engage with current and prospective members.

QR codes serve as an immediate call to action at the moment of emotion that serves to bridge the physical world with the online arena. On-the-spot access to online resources can make integrated marketing campaigns extremely effective, providing immediate access to all sorts of additional information of interest to consumers.

Next: How CUs can use QR codes

Here are some ways credit unions can use QR codes with direct mail:

• Explain the credit union difference. With the economy still on shaky ground, many consumers are skeptical of banks but aren’t sure how they differ from credit unions.

A direct mail piece on this topic can get their attention, and then a QR code printed on the piece can take them to an online video that discusses in more detail how your credit union differs from banks.

• Educate consumers about your products and services. Your own members might not know all of the financial services your credit union provides.

A series of direct mailings can educate members about what’s available, such as insurance or credit card services. QR codes on each mail piece can take members to mobile-optimized web pages offering more detailed information or a secure online application site.

• Highlight your credit union’s community involvement. Many credit unions organize and sponsor charity events. A member could learn about such events on a direct mail piece and then quickly use their smartphone to scan a QR code linked to a secure site where they can buy a ticket or make a donation.

The QR code allows consumers to respond when their interest is high, rather than hoping they visit a website later when using their computer.

Personalize your QR codes by embedding them with a personalized URL (PURL). The PURL takes members to an online microsite where the content can be customized for that user.

QR codes with PURLs can be made for every member on your mailing list. You can direct members to customized microsites where they will be referred to by name and can learn about the services they’re not currently using.

Marketers continue to discuss whether to use QR codes or other emerging two-dimensional barcode technology. For example, some marketers use Microsoft Tags because they offer more color customization than QR codes.

QR codes, however, continue to be the most popular at this point, making it more likely your targeted audience will have QR code readers installed on their smartphones rather than an app for a different type of code.

But no matter what technology you choose, it is a good idea to include brief directions next to a code about how to scan it and where the code will take the user.

Measure for success

To obtain the best return on investment for your marketing campaign, you must have the ability to measure success. When using QR codes, be sure the software program you’re using offers a robust tracking system.

Good tracking programs can determine how many QR code scans happened per day, the times of those scans, and the location of the scans.

The back-end reporting becomes even more detailed and useful when a prospect interacts with a customized microsite through a PURL and engages with your brand.

Direct marketing enhanced with QR codes, especially in combination with PURLs, can provide members with personalized and convenient multichannel options. Adding a QR code to a direct mail piece can generate quick, easy responses.

Best of all, it offers the benefit of developing deeper, longer-lasting relationships with your valuable members.

DAVID HENKEL is president of Johnson and Quin in Niles, Illinois.