2011 in Review: QR Codes Become Mainstream and Mystery

A quick pat on the back: Multichannel Merchant was ahead of the game in October 2008, when it did its cover story on QR codes. But three years later, QR codes gained mainstream recognition by consumers, but remained a mystery for retail marketers.

The U.S. Postal Service, which is not necessarily known for being cutting-edge, deserves credit for raising QR code awareness to direct mailers. The USPS offered mailers a 3% discount if it used the 2D barcodes in its mailings over the summer.

And while the USPS said the promotion was a success, one comment left on this article made it seem mailers were left scratching their heads:

“I think the Post Office could of (sic) done a better job of sharing ideas for businesses who sites are not mobile-friendly and how they too could make interactive and fun for their customers so they could take advantage of the savings.”

While it was the USPS’s job to solely lead mailers in the right direction, the execution by mailers was iffy, as you can see in this photo gallery. Even the Direct Marketing Association committed a QR code faux pas in this mailing showcased in this post on the Big Fat Marketing Blog.

But mailers did see the value of using QR codes as a cross-channel tool. Once considered a way to drive consumers to their ecommerce channel, merchants began to understand the 2D barcodes actually bridge the gap between print and mobile.

The Catholic Company did an excellent job with QR codes over the summer. Here’s a look at what it did, and lessons you can learn from the execution of its campaign.

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