QR Codes Generate Catalog of Success

Submitted by: Joan MacKenzie 02/26/2012

“We get to build all these really cool features and benefits into a product, and we need to communicate those, and QR codes help us do that,” says Jeff Rohling, Brookstone’s vice president, general manager direct channel. “Our online business is partially driven by catalogs, and QR codes provide quick access to additional product information and videos.”

January 23, 2012

Mindy Charski

There’s a lot Brookstone can say in its catalogs about products like a $19.99 bowl that prevents soggy cereal or a $3,499 chair that gives the ultimate massage. But more interactive and user-generated content — like videos and customer reviews — can greatly influence a purchase.

In order to help readers access those kinds of online resources with a mere scan of a mobile device, Brookstone has begun printing quick response (QR) codes next to select catalog items.

“We get to build all these really cool features and benefits into a product, and we need to communicate those, and QR codes help us do that,” says Jeff Rohling, Brookstone’s vice president, general manager direct channel. “Our online business is partially driven by catalogs, and QR codes provide quick access to additional product information and videos.”

Quick QR Code Facts

  • There are many ways to use QR codes and other types of two-dimensional barcodes to potentially drive sales — destinations can range from coupon codes to online pages with products similar to those in a catalog.
  • Companies are beginning to experiment with the quirky little marks amid growing consumer interest in the technology.
  •  Forrester Research found that 5% of adults in the United States with a mobile phone had used a 2-D barcode reader in 2011, compared to only 1% in 2010.

QR Codes and Thoroughbreds

For thoroughbred auction firm Fasig-Tipton Co., the codes present a way to keep a catalog fresh. The company recently used QR codes in its catalog called The November Sale, which featured fillies and mares that would be offered at one of the most elite thoroughbred auctions in the world.

The book went to press about six weeks before the event, and many of the highly accomplished horses featured had not stopped racing between press time and the auction. “[Six weeks] is eternity in the horse business,” says Max Hodge, Fasig-Tipton’s director of client services. The value of a horse can increase dramatically in a single day or race, he says, and indeed, one horse doubled her value during the time period and sold for $1.2 million.

So by printing a QR code for each horse, Fasig-Tipton could provide its global audience with updated data and additional information. The individual landing pages — which Hodge calls “enhanced online catalog pages” — offered race replays, news articles and other resources that potential buyers would have had to scour multiple sources to collect.

“We received extremely positive feedback,” Hodge says. “Through this feature we provided a higher level of service than our competition and it has given us a competitive advantage.”

 Form-Fitting, High-Performance QR Codes

Speedo USA, meanwhile, largely used the codes in its 2012 Spring Performance catalog to drive readers to videos of top swimmers casually talking about technical aspects of certain products. The book, which targets the nation’s competitive swimming community, is designed to drive sales through niche swim shops and its website, SpeedoUSA.com.

“Never are [Speedo’s sponsored athletes] really in front of the mass consumer saying, ‘Hey, I wear this, I use this product in practice, and here’s why you should get it, too,’ so that was something we wanted to achieve with the QR code videos,” says Katie Tyrrell, Speedo USA’s director of marketing. “I think it adds to the endemic pitch of trying to convince a consumer to buy this product.”

To be sure, like many other companies using 2-D barcodes, Speedo has found it tough to track conversion from QR codes. People may view the video online and subsequently purchase a related product at SpeedoUSA.com, but right now the aquatics brand doesn’t have a way to track the sale back to a code.

But Tyrrell senses these codes are helping to sell products, and Speedo is considering ways to use them in the future. Fasig-Tipton and Brookstone are, too. As they get more accepted in the public, Brookstone’s Rohling says, they are a “natural avenue” for catalogs.