QR codes: the age-old resolution to new CPG issues

Frank Picas

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, QR codes are being used more than ever.

From Native.AI CEO and co-founder Frank Pica.

In today's crowded retail market, brands struggle to differentiate themselves, gain shelf space, and build customer loyalty. The challenge has grown exponentially due to the rapidly changing consumer preferences and behaviors, many of which were initiated by the pandemic.

Fortunately, the pandemic has also found a solution. QR codes have re-emerged from the shadows of CPG's past to help brands get to know their customers.

QR codes – short for Quick Response Codes – were first invented in 1994 and quickly adopted across Asia. Twenty years later, Apple incorporated QR code scanners into iPhone cameras – a shift that put the technology right in the hands of billions of consumers. The door to the customer's psyche was open, but few brands saw the potential on the other side.

Fast forward to today, QR codes are used everywhere. In fact, half of all full-service restaurants in the US added QR code menus during the pandemic. As a result, consumers are more familiar and ready to dig into QR codes than ever before.

Today, leading brands don't just use QR codes as a contactless transaction tool. They use the technology to hear the customer's voice. Used correctly, QR codes create a networked shopping experience for customers and offer brands another opportunity to obtain feedback, test offers and analyze behavior. They also give consumers the opportunity to engage with a brand as they walk down an aisle – and an easy way to share their experiences, needs, and wants. Brands can use this feedback to improve products, personalize offers and strengthen customer relationships.

Good for customers, better for companies

Customers improve the products they already love through QR codes, which is a huge plus for the customer experience. Companies are also gaining something invaluable: real-time, first-hand insights that enable them to build loyalty, increase sales, and build brand reputation. QR codes have risen into the zeitgeist at the moment when third-party cookie collection is gradually phased out, offering a new way of collecting ego data.

QR codes generate a wealth of data. They can help brands track order history, contact information, shopping behavior, and customer preferences accurately and quickly. This window into the customer journey, typically not available in-store, enables brands to measure what is working and to proactively adjust and optimize their products and promotions. The insights can also be used to personalize product suggestions online or drive sales through in-store location promotions and offers. Seeing what works for a customer helps brands tailor brand incentives more effectively and build personalized digital interaction in a physical store.

QR codes can also provide quality assurance benefits to avoid product, item, or packaging errors by allowing customers to scan problems and report them when they arise. With up-to-date insights, brands can react and address potentially costly problems before they have a big impact. For example, a consumer might report that your product is out of date or has expired. Is this a one-time problem with a retailer or a mass problem across the country? If you don't know, you can't act. Using QR codes as a tool to predict sales and improve customer loyalty has a huge impact on a company's sales.

The final and perhaps greatest benefit of QR codes is the ability to turn store customers into direct online buyers. How many customers does your brand have that you don't know and who you can't target because they all do their purchases from a large retailer's store? Depending on the size, the answer can run into the millions. Customers who scan QR codes provide brands with the ability to make repeat purchases and convert retail customers into direct buyers, offering the company higher margins.

QR codes are officially back – and their value extends far beyond contactless transactions and digital menus. It's time to take advantage.

About Frank Pica

Frank Pica is CEO and Co-Founder of Native.AI, a platform that uses end-to-end data and AI to help CPG companies understand consumer preferences and create products that people love.

About Native.AI

Founded in 2018, Native.AI provides a real-time consumer and market intelligence platform that enables brands to uncover, analyze, and respond to customer feedback to improve product offerings and drive innovation.

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