By Kimberley Drobny, Theatro
There was a time when retail shopping was synonymous with going to Main Street, browsing the store windows, then popping inside a shop to make a purchase.
Over the years, that's changed dramatically. Today, Main Street has been partially replaced by a web browser, and store windows have been replaced by browser tabs. The world has seen e-commerce become a $5 trillion industry, giving buyers access to the global economy from the comfort of their homes.
Does that mean the in-store experience is dead? Absolutely not! For 64% of consumers, physical stores are still a critical shopping touchpoint. But today, they expect a seamless, personalized experience no matter where they choose to shop. They also expect the immediacy of the online world to translate to the in-store experience, with 90% rating an immediate response to a customer service question as important to them. How does this type of experience become a reality? It requires retailers to offer a way for customers to request assistance from anywhere in the store when they need it. However, that is not enough — customers want to know someone is actually on their way and going to show up to help.
QR Codes Provide A Medium For Communication And Information Sharing
An effective way to do this is by utilizing QR codes in stores to enhance the customer experience. And before you say that you've tried QR codes and they didn't work, that likely was when they were new and before we understood how to make them work smarter for us. It also was likely before the shopping public became comfortable using them. Today, they are a growing resource that more and more of us are happy to use. In fact, the number of U.S. smartphone users who will scan a QR code is expected to increase from 83.4 million in 2022 to 99.5 million in 2025.
Considering that, here are five ways QR codes can be used to improve the flow of information, deliver the immediacy shoppers say they are looking for, and bridge the online and in-store shopping experience. Also, because they are anonymous, QR codes facilitate an ideal way to create a digital connection with someone who might otherwise be hesitant to share personal information electronically.
1. Give Shoppers Peace Of Mind
A customer needing help can scan a QR code to request assistance to a specific location in the store rather than wandering around the store looking for an associate.
When customers need assistance, they either must look for an associate or, if available, use an in-aisle button to call for help. However, customers need more. They need to know someone heard their request — feedback that an associate was notified and is on their way to assist. QR codes can close that loop, giving customers peace of mind so they aren't left stranded without a response. In addition, retailers need to be able to measure how quickly their teams are responding to customer requests so they can improve performance where required.
Retailers can use these same QR codes to measure these interactions, discovering insights into metrics like response times that allow the store management to improve the customer experience.
2. Make Product Information Available At A Glance
Customers can't just click on a product in a brick-and-mortar store to get more information. They must rely on shelf tags or employees for this, and often the labels are too small and the employees too uninformed to be of immediate help.
With QR codes, you can give customers the ability to access product information whenever they want. Customers can simply scan the code and be taken to a product page on their mobile device to find out everything about a product, such as availability, care instructions, or where it was made.
You could even use QR codes to display customer reviews and ratings, so shoppers can get an idea of what others think before they make a purchase, just like they would when shopping online.
3. Encourage Interaction With Your Brand
QR codes can make brand interaction easier and more engaging and can often be the first step in creating digital connections with customers. QR codes allow the customer to interact with the store on their terms while remaining completely anonymous. By optimizing anonymous experiences, the brand can build the kind of trust that leads a customer to eventually use a QR code to sign up for less anonymous interactions—like signing up for a loyalty program or providing feedback.
For example, a customer might scan a QR code to answer a quick survey about their experience in your store. The retailer could then use this feedback to improve the shopper's experience the next time they visit. Or, if they scan the QR code using the store's mobile app, the retailer could use that same in-store information to improve their online experience.
4. Provide A Hybrid Shopping Experience
A QR code also can help bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds. For example, if a customer scans a QR code through a store app, that data can be added to a customer's profile and used to give you a better idea of which products they're most interested in. Such data allows stores to personalize the shopping experience and make relevant recommendations via the emails they send to customers' inboxes, the coupons they receive in the mail, or even special offers presented in the store's mobile app.
5. Offer A Seamless Check-In Experience
QR codes can enable efficient customer check-ins, too. Consider the exponential rise in the use of curbside and BOPIS pickups since the beginning of the pandemic. Making a QR code available to scan lets a store associate know a customer has arrived and is ready for pickup. It also allows the store to send a response letting the customer know it received their information. Yet another example of closing that critical feedback loop.
With the rise in omni-channel shopping, an engaging in-store customer experience has become more crucial than ever. If a customer opts to pick up an online order in a store instead of choosing delivery, the experience must be equally, if not more, convenient. With technology as intuitive as QR codes, retailers can provide this kind of convenience and ensure customers receive the experience they expect.
QR codes are a simple and effective way to improve the in-store experience for a retailer's customers and employees. Used efficiently, they can provide information, support, engagement, and even data collection, which will be important in 2023 and only more valuable in the years after.
About The Author
Kimberley Drobny is an experienced Marketing and Sales executive with a passion for creating dynamic and engaging customer experiences across all channels. Throughout her career, she has led high-performance teams to support strategic initiatives across the enterprise to increase brand awareness and impact overall business growth. As the CMO at Theatro, she is focused on breaking into new markets and helping enterprises digitally transform frontline communications.