From occasional use to becoming part of our daily lives over the last two years, the QR could continue to prove useful to retailers.
For some companies, the pandemic was arguably a gamechanger. A number of technologies which had previously been overlooked then shot to stardom. And whilst the growth of video call platform Zoom was widely spoken about, the humble QR code quietly became part of our everyday lives, as we scanned them for the NHS Track and Trace app, to view menus and order food in restaurants, or to log the results of our COVID test at home.
Video calls remain a constant, even with people returning to the office – but what about the QR code?
According to digital retail specialist Sherwen Studios, awareness of the QR code is at an all-time high and it could be used to retailers to increase sales.
“Before COVID, I wondered if people were actually going to use QR codes; but now, everyone knows what they are and how to use them. They’ve become a lot more relevant, and they’re easy to generate,” says Rachel Morris, marketing manager at Sherwen Studios, which earlier this year published a whitepaper looking at how garden centres could improve e-commerce platforms and physical stores by better linking these offerings.
QR Codes are changing purchasing
Two thousand consumers were questioned about their shopping habits and preferences for the whitepaper, which found that more than 40% of shoppers would actively increase their purchasing if QR codes were used to help them through the sales funnel or provided added value.
Those aged between 16 and 24 were most likely, with 63% saying QR codes becoming mainstream would actively improve their in-store purchasing. This didn’t drop as drastically as some might assume with older consumers, with a quarter of those aged 55 also seeing the benefit of QR codes being used by retailers.
Rachel says this might be because QR codes were used by many throughout the pandemic, regardless of age, and so more understand what they are and how they can be beneficial. Phone cameras can also now be used to scan QR codes, whereas previously a separate scanning app was required – and would typically be deleted, says Rachel.
‘Easy to use’
With QR codes being so easy to use and a wide customer base interested in using them in-store, there are a number of ways in which garden centres could introduce them.
They could feature below a product on the shelf, for instance, to take a customer to a page where they can learn more about the product – or they could be included in the packaging to lead the customer to this information once they’ve purchased the product.
For plants, this could be aftercare information or advice on where to plant it such as in the sun or shade. It’s about linking the online and offline offering with QR codes, says Rachel.
“You want the QR codes to be driving customers to your website so that you can track the success; you can see who is scanning the codes and what they are using them for. It will help to give you customer data to understand why people are using QR codes. You could even have them in store with garden furniture, linking the customer to a VR tool so they can see what the product would look like in their garden.”
For instance, Sherwen Studios has ScS as a customer and has worked with the furniture store to allow customers to virtually place its sofas into their homes.
How can codes help garden centres?
QR codes could also be used to help customers identify additional complementary products for certain plants, such as compost; or to allow customers to collect loyalty points. They could also help customers to keep track of products they have seen and liked in store but did not purchase at the time. These products could be added to a digital wishlist by scanning the QR code.
Sherwen Studios can help retailers engage with this technology, and others, by helping them to understand all the touch points for where technology could be used.
“Retail has changed massive over the past couple of decades, especially in the past couple of years with COVID. It’s sped up the digital transformation and even bigger companies weren’t prepared for the level of technology they would need to keep up with it. We help to build that evolution of retail,” says Rachel, who noticed a surge in demand from the home improvement industries for a better online presence throughout the pandemic.
“Quite often, it can be more difficult for bigger companies to implement this because retail giants have lots of hoops to jump through; whereas smaller companies can be more agile and act a lot quicker. We work as quickly as we can to implement things and do a continuous improvement plan, so we’re always thinking of new ways to improve the digital landscape of that company.”
Embracing QR codes
Rachel recommends retailers introduce new technologies to consumers gradually to better track their success and progress, to ensure each is worth the investment. “We want to make sure that whatever technology has been implemented is actually serving the purpose that we want it to, and so a staged approach would be the best way to do this.”
Following the mass introduction of QR codes in 2020, now is arguably the best time to explore how these can be used in-store, and to explore the other technologies which can continue to improve the customer experience both in-store and online.