For marketers, the advancement of mobile solutions has succeeded in integrating the digital and real worlds, helping to generate tangible results (specifically direct sales) for their brands – or so it would seem.

Complementing the meteoric rise of smartphone usage, which in the UK now totals 53%, there is no doubt that mobile marketing channels should offer today’s marketer a plethora of options when it comes to linking the two worlds, and seemingly would in turn offer brands another bite of the cherry in terms of converting interest stimulated from print advertising into hard sales. For retailers and standalone consumer brands, it would seem no stone is left unturned in terms of opportunities to capture and convert audiences.

However, a retrospective look at tools such as QR codes would suggest they have not always had the desired effect. QR codes have experienced problems around levels of consumer uptake, and while they have been readily adopted by the marketing world and welcomed on to the boardroom drawing table, the reality is very different.

Education Lacking

There has been little done by way of education, and as a consequence the consumer may acknowledge they are looking at a square symbol on an advert, but do they know what they are to do with it? Ask the average consumer what a QR code is, and they’ll look at you blankly. Show them the barcode, and they’ll acknowledge they’ve seen something similar before, yet the acceleration of those who actually scan has been slower than anticipated. Despite 3m UK consumers having scanned a QR code during summer 2012, they still remain in a minority and the adoption of the codes has yet to demonstrate a widespread return on investment.

For those who have ‘spotted and scanned’ there is the risk they have done so for little or no gain for either consumer or brand. The worst-case scenario here being that the consumer is left with a bitter taste in their mouth as a result of an unrewarding experience; and in turn a negative memory and association with the brand – a fifth of respondents don’t expect they’ll use them again in the future claiming they offered no advantages and, according to research done by Foolproof, nearly half of mobile users there have “ditched a brand” following a poor mobile experience. A disposable technology, QR codes also have little in the way of security and so the likelihood that the code is a ‘duff’ is potentially high. More disappointing still is the subsequent payoff experience for the consumer when using a code that is, in fact, ‘real’. Being taken to a brand’s website on a viewer the size of a mobile phone screen means the direct sale potential is minimal, and the adoption of such a technology, futile.

A Mobile Revolution

A storm is brewing on the landscape however, and marketers will now find themselves in the middle of a mobile revolution, as the onslaught of a new solution paves the way for achieving those coveted tangible results. Invisible marker images are the easy to create, cost-effective solution that will put a secure direct response mechanism in consumer’s hands. Unlike QR codes, they are safe, do not take up any space and do not look like someone has made a black and white pixelated mistake on the artwork. This is further enhanced by the creation of a mobile microsite for each code that guarantees an effective payoff for the consumer, and a much higher probability that their initial interest in the product or service will be converted into a sale or at the very least, a registration of interest.

That being said, the onus to educate consumers still prevails. But there is no point sitting on the side lines – consumers are already managing their lifestyles through a mobile device and not having an effective mobile solution is no longer an option. Innovative and new mobile marketing solutions WILL benefit from the inherent failings in QR codes as, in spite of these, consumers are now somewhat, if not fully, aware that print can have digital dimensions – and they will be more receptive as a result.

As with any new solution, the challenge of consumer adoption will always remain, however the element of direct response for brands and retailers should be enough of an incentive to educate consumers, and cultivate an environment, where the consumer is not only receptive but is eager to utilise the option.