This post was updated in 2015.
Developments in technology, especially web and mobile, have changed the way we engage with each other as well as with places and objects around us. A few years ago we were all tied to our desktop computers and now there is an ever increasing amount of technology allowing us to be mobile and plugged into the Internet wherever we are, thanks to smartphones and tablets like the iPad. New figures show that smartphones now account for 64% of all phones sold in the UK. Nielsen also predicted last year that smartphones will be the dominant device by the end of 2011, so there certainly is a reason to be taking this area more seriously. Opportunities to connect the physical world with the digital one are therefore great and construction companies can learn to use QR codes to their advantage.
“Savvy startups, with the help of innovative marketers, have already started making use of location and mobile marketing, augmented reality and QR codes. There is increased interest in using QR codes (or mobile tagging) as part of the digital marketing mix.”
Nick Pauley – Managing Director
What are QR codes?
QR, which stands for ‘Quick Response’, are two-dimensional bar codes that are readable using smartphones and or webcams. They were originally designed by Toyota to manage parts, and have become a popular way to transmit data in Japan without taking up a lot of space. Their purpose is to act as a hyperlink that connects the physical world to the digital world through your mobile phone. Their popularity is slowly growing as big brands like Puma and Ikea are implementing them into their marketing plans.
“Customers’ demand for instant access to relevant information is facilitated by the use of QR codes especially for product manufacturers and house builders who need to constantly inform their target audience about new and improved products or new building projects.”
Ayaan Mohamud – Marketing Assistant
Scanning a QR code is the same as clicking on an online link and usually leads the user to a mobile website, promotional message, installation video, social media links or a landing page. QR codes can be embedded in daily surroundings:
- On billboards
- Signs at construction sites
- On print adverts in industry publication magazines
- Side of product packaging which instantly links to an assembly video
- Business cards which saves the contact details in your phone automatically
- On technical drawings (see below)
How QR Codes Work
The basic processes involved are explained by the diagram below. A QR code is generated by a company and this can then be scanned by a potential customer using their smartphone. The QR code can lead the user to a
- Mobile optimised landing page
- Corporate blog or news RSS feed
- Product installation video
- Testimonials or Case Studies
- Provide contact details
- Links to the company’s social media profiles
- The slide of your technical presentation (so whilst the Q&A is happening, others can scan away and access your product info)
The options are up to you (the construction marketer) and depends on what business objectives you are trying to achieve.
The connection between the digital world and the offline world is made easier and quicker with the use of QR codes. Like traditional marketing activities it is still essential to measure and track the success of QR codes. The social features app YouScan.me allows you to generate and track your code. When a user scans the code, they will be directed to a mobile friendly landing page containing all your social content and YouScan.me allows you to track your QR code to measure how many people scan it and the locations from where they have been scanned. It has inbuilt analytics and insights that help measure your marketing success.
QR code generators
There are a number of other sites which you can use to generate simple QR codes and they are all free. We find that Google’s one is the easiest to use. Simply go to http://goo.gl/ and enter the URL of the site which you want your QR code to lead visitors too. Once you have shortened the URL put it in the URL bar at the top of your page and add .qr to it. Click enter and your QR should automatically be created.
For example: www.pauleycreative.co.uk is shortened to ‘http://goo.gl/65JDB’ and to create the code, ‘.qr’ is added to the end, making it: http://goo.gl/65JDB.qr
QR code readers
In order to scan QR codes on your smartphone, you have to first download a QR code reader app. There is a huge selection but the one we would recommend is i-nigma which claims to be the most widely used reader in the world. It accommodates nearly any type of phone (over 250) and can be downloaded online or by SMS.
How they can benefit you
The main advantage is that they are cheap, quick and easy to employ. QR codes can be computer generated and displayed in print (in magazines, brochures and on product packaging) or on screens without any specific manufacturing processes. With the rise of smartphone usage and ownership they are easily readable by downloading the suitable QR code reader apps and taking the user straight to a mobile website or landing page.
Product manufacturers in the construction industry can use QR codes in a similar way that IKEA did. They included them on product packages so that when users scanned the code they were directed to a video which showed exactly how the product was assembled. This was much quicker and easier than reading the long, and sometimes very confusing, instruction booklet.
“Many architects or specifiers would find it easier to choose specific products if they could see the benefits rather than simply reading about them. Putting QR codes on packages means product manufacturers can also include important information such as assembly instructions, supplier or manufacturer details and links to technical support.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
Uses for QR codes in the construction industry
QR codes can be implemented in many different ways to improve your marketing activities. However the technology is still foreign to many and therefore you need to inform your target audience on how to use them. Give them a relevant reason to scan the QR code and instruct them on how it can be beneficial.
We asked a question on Twitter to find out whether construction professionals would find QR codes useful and we had this response from Matthew Franklin, a UK architect:
This shows that there is a demand for linking the physical world with the digital one. However, remember that QR codes should provide some kind of value to the person scanning it. Best practice would be to link the code to engaging content (video, articles, photos, extra information) rather than simply your website homepage.
Below are 10 suggested uses for QR codes in the AEC (Architectural, Engineering and Construction) industry:
- Link to Technical Information – If you are out on a job site and need to know how to install or assemble a new product, having a QR code on the product would allow the builder/ contractor/architect to have instant access to information. Internet access is not always available on a building site but most will carry a mobile phone with a camera and therefore QR codes would be the perfect solution.
- Comparisons – Sometimes it is necessary to compare the actual site to the architect plans and QR codes can allow you to look at product samples on the shelves and with a few clicks get access to the guide specs and see how it looks.
- Company Signage – If you are a housebuilder, for example, and want to display your business information and contact details then include a QR code on your billboards and signs near jobsites. Prospects will instantly have your details in their phonebooks and be able to contact the nearest sales rep when they have the chance and are interested in your services.
- Project Photos – Architects can put QR codes in magazines next to photos of previous or current projects and readers can scan these to gain access to further project information online. This can include case studies, maps and directions or other facts such as the sustainability benefits of the project.
- Business cards & brochures – This use is not specific to the construction industry and is in fact helpful to any company wanting to portray a lot of valuable information in a small space. At a networking event, business prospects can quickly scan the QR codes on your business card and/or brochure to view other information such as your website, profile on LinkedIn and even read some of your blog posts (if you have a blog). This will help them build a more complete picture of you and your business.
- Promotions & marketing activity – If you want to encourage patronage from the iPhone and Android set, you could create discounts that are specific to the QR codes. You could run these codes in advertisements or post them throughout your store. You could even turn them into a “retweet” so that your shoppers share their discount with their followers. You can create mobile-friendly landing pages with Facebook like buttons or lead them to your Twitter page for a quick follow. The name of the game is engagement, so a like or follow can create a long-term marketing opportunity.
- Build your email subscriber list – Use your QR code to send people to your email signup. Just make sure you give people a compelling reason to subscribe to your list…otherwise you will have just wasted their time. Not the best way to engage your audience.
- Calls to action – Once you have built a community of prospects (through a group on LinkedIn or conversations on Twitter), mobilise them to take action. If you are running a new email campaign or holding a seminar, link your QR codes to these landing pages and include calls to action such as ‘sign up’ or ‘register now’ to increase lead generation.
- Customer Service – If an architect has purchased your product but is having trouble assembling it or needs some technical advice, having a QR code on your product which leads to a FAQ site or ‘how to videos’ will improve your customer service. It saves the architect or specifier valuable time and because it is mobile, they can access the information instantly whenever it is needed. It also benefits the product manufacturer because they do not have to spend hours answering customer service questions and therefore spend more time improving and developing products.
- Analytics – QR codes are commonly linked to URLs which can be easily measured and tracked. This provides marketers with valuable insights regarding who is scanning the codes, how often they scan them and what are look for once they are on the landing page.
Case Study: An architect using QR Codes
A blog written by an American architect who has been using the technology since July 2010. He places QR codes on project signs in front of construction sites which lead users to a blog post describing the project, using verbal descriptions as well as photos and videos. This is a great example of QR codes being effectively used in the construction industry to engage people and inform them about present projects within certain locations. It also allows the architect to link the QR code to his previous work which could result in new business leads.
The QR code can also link to a 3D model of what the building is going to look like which would be interesting for both the general public and future clients who are interested in the Architect’s vision.
“As you can see, there are plenty of ways to use QR codes to connect and engage your audience. QR codes can provide additional information, including photos, reviews, directions and event dates and times. There’s a certain amount of fun and surprise with QR Codes, so that you can take advantage of a “what’s behind door number one” mentality.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
More examples of QR Codes
Rules to remember when using QR Codes
- Link your QR code to a mobile optimised website not simply a regular webpage. The aim is to enhance the user experience and they’ll be frustrated if it does not link to a site that is optimised for mobile browsing. If the user experience is pleasant prospects are more likely to return to your site, increasing loyalty and lead generation.
- Conduct A/B split tests with your QR code landing pages. Figure out which one works best and make sure it has appropriate calls to action which will help with data capture and push prospects further down the buying cycle.
- Offer something of value. There should be a valid reason why prospects should take the trouble to scan your QR code so include something extra such as a promotional code, webcast on how to best use your product or a ticket to an event such as Ecobuild where potential clients can interact with you in person.
- Savvy marketing is about measurement, analytics and metrics. Using QR codes is no different and you should still use measurement software such as Google Analytics to track the success of your QR campaign. See which building sites or product ads received the most scans and figure out why so that you can improve your other campaigns.
- Test your QR code on various phones, network providers and with various QR code readers as well as testing them on different materials such as construction signs, in printed magazines or on the sides of your company vehicles. It would be a waste of time and effort if you started a campaign using a code that was wrongly generated and cannot be scanned.
Since QR codes are still a relatively new technology it might take some time for customers and clients to adopt to the ‘scanning’ behaviour but it is good to be ahead of the game. There are many potential uses for them in the construction industry and it is exciting to see how the technology will evolve to enhance the experience. Maybe the next few months will bring about a new generation of bar codes leading to an augmented reality image of your building for example.
But for now, if you would like to find out more about how you can use QR codes as part of your marketing campaigns or material, please do give us a call on 01908 671 707.