QR Codes and National PCC Day

23 Sep 2011
by John Foley
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This week, National PCC Day was celebrated across the country. (Not sure what PCC stands for? Here is some information from the USPS’ website.)

The USPS certainly has been in the news quite a bit recently. And as we all know, the stories have not typically been positive. There is not doubt that direct mail volumes are drastically different than they were a few years ago. Channels such as the web, social networks, and mobile continue to change the way that people learn about companies, products, and services.

At the National PCC Day even at Stonehill College this week, those other marketing channels were certainly discussed. However, rather than simply lamenting how they’ve effected direct mail and print, the majority of folks there seemed to be excited to find and discuss ways that direct mail can be integrated with them.

The Communications Bridge

I had the chance to speak on a panel that primarily focused on technologies that help to bridge online and offline communications. Of course, my participation in the panel primarily centered around QR Codes!

I did not have any slides, and I did not see a video camera. But here were some of the points that were discussed during the session:

  • The USPS Discount: The USPS mobile barcode discount over the summer seems to have accomplished a lot of positive things. Sure, not every mail service provider was happy with how the program worked. But, most importantly, the discount did encourage some very big companies to incorporate QR Codes on their direct mail efforts. These mailers reached millions of people, which certainly has helped to increase awareness of QR Codes.
  • Yes, it’s easy to create a QR Code, but… While there certainly has been a gigantic increase in the number of people that are utilizing QR Codes to make print and mail interactive, many are still not utilizing them properly. If this continues, it could absolutely harm how customers and prospects think of  QR Codes. Some of the best practices that should be followed include directing people to a mobile website, providing directions & incentive to scan, and tracking the effectiveness of the QR Code.
  • The Mobile Experience Needs to be Rewarding: One of the other panel members talked about augmented reality. He mentioned that there is still a decent financial investment needed to create an effective augmented reality experience. But even from companies that do have the money to do so, many are missing the mark of what the technology could do. The same applies to QR Codes that do point to mobile websites. We must put ourselves in the shoes of the person scanning the QR Code. Why would they want to scan? What information would make their lives easier? How can we stir up emotions inside of them? How can we take steps to learn more about them and then engage with them?

These were just a few of the main items that were discussed in the panel. I was quite happy to see that the audience asked a decent amount of questions throughout the session. Primarily, people asked about tools that can help them track QR Codes and tools that can help them build mobile websites.

I think that was a good indicator of the fact that many people in the mail industry have recognized that there are technologies that can absolutely help them to integrate mail with social networks, the web, and mobile.

Moving Forward

Overall, I was quite impressed with the optimism that seemed to be prevalent throughout the room. Of course, there were honest (and sometimes scary) discussions about how the industry has changed dramatically. But for the most part, many folks seemed to be excited by the opportunities that exist to integrate mail with other marketing channels.

Oh… and since I was speaking near Boston, I am quite happy that I was able to slip in a joke about the New York Yankees while I was talking about using QR Codes to measure the location of the scan. I think that earned me a few more fans 🙂

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