How to Use QR Codes in Retail: Best Practices for Optimal Customer Experience

QR codes retail

To deliver exceptional next-generation in-store experiences, retailers must bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. QR codes in retail stores enhance the customer journey and facilitate an omnichannel shopping experience that seamlessly connects the dots between the physical and online spaces.

Despite having been around for decades, the first wave of QR codes for retail didn’t see the success many marketers hoped it would, mostly due to technological shortcomings that required users to download various scanner apps.

But since Apple’s iOS 11 update that allowed iPhone users to scan QR codes directly through the camera app, the implementation of QR codes in retail is a much more attainable marketing feat. Android mobile makers have followed suit.

QR code usage is on the rise in 2020 and beyond. Juniper Research predicts that by 2022, QR code coupon redemptions will surge to 5.3 billion, while 1 billion smartphones will access these codes. ContactPigeon’s 2-Way QR codes run with this trend by creating personalized shopping experiences for your retail customers.

This post explores ways to build an integrated omnichannel customer experience and essential best practices to follow when using QR codes in retail. Plus, check out some examples of brands that used QR codes to their benefit.

What are next-gen 2-way QR codes?

While a first wave QR code scan provides a single transaction, like opening a URL or downloading an app, ContactPigeon’s patent-pending 2-Way QR codes for retail businesses create more varied interactions customized based on the customer profile. 

When a person scans the code with his mobile device, the ContactPigeon system verifies the device’s profile or builds a new profile if the identity is unknown. The system subsequently retrieves promotional content unique to the profile, facilitating a bilateral interaction between the business and its customers.

How can 2-Way QR codes benefit retailer stores?

They are versatile. 

2-Way QR codes offer a more tailored in-store experience than their predecessors, with many supported applications to suit retailers in all industries. Potential uses include sweepstake entry, product education, free WIFI login, product recommendations, signup offers, and more. All of the possible applications create various touchpoints that make the customer experience as interactive as possible.

They enhance the shopping experience and create repeat customers. 

There’s no denying it — scanning QR codes are fun! Imagine wandering through the grocery store, trying to decide what to make for dinner when you happen upon a QR code that pulls up recipe ideas. You’re inspired to cook something new, and you can easily locate all of the necessary ingredients right on your phone. QR codes promote shopping in-store, offer unique incentives and discounts, turn visitors into repeat customers, and increase customer lifetime value.

They provide valuable data on consumer behavior. 

It can be challenging to track in-store shoppers’ consumer behaviors, but 2-Way QR codes make collecting data and customer insights easier. Particularly when combined with location analytics tools, like Cisco Meraki, ContactPigeon helps you gain insights on visitor browsing patterns on an individual basis. You can access everything you need to know about your customers, in one place, with visitor data on both retail and ecommerce transactions. 

They allow retailers to educate customers on the product better. 

qr codes for product education
Assists in enabling product education or recommendation in-store.

Did you know that 95% of customers want to be left alone while shopping? 2-Way QR codes allow them to control their level of interaction with the retailer. As customers scan QR codes strategically placed around the store, they’ll learn about individual products, access content such as guides, tips, and recipes, and even see similar product recommendations — all without the intrusion from store staff.

They assist with your remarketing efforts.

The future of retail is omnichannel. While physical retail’s prominence is not likely to change any time soon, online retail continues to grow. Using 2-Way QR codes allows retailers to capture integrated insights about customers and use them to remarket to the customer beyond their in-store experience, helping marketers see a boost in return on ad spend.

QR codes best practices for retailers to copy

Best Practice #1: Provide clear instructions

QR codes are quickly becoming a familiar sight across industries, but that doesn’t mean every customer knows how to use them.

Include directions with the code telling customers how to open it on their smartphone and what kind of content they can expect to see (e.g., Scan QR code with your smartphone’s camera app to get a discount!). Retailers that focus on education and accessibility will capture even the least tech-savvy customers.

Best Practice #2: Design a clean and engaging landing page

You can engage with more customers and increase the chance of them making a transaction by creating a clean and compelling landing page. Upon scanning the QR code, your customers should want to engage with the content. 

Capture their attention with straightforward information about a product or action you want them to take, as well as strong visuals, a benefit-driven headline, and an eye-catching call to action.

Best Practice #3: Make sure content is mobile optimized

QR codes are a mobile experience, so it doesn’t make sense to link to a desktop site where users will be forced to do lots of scrolling and zooming in to see the message. Mobile optimized content is scalable and responsive, and users should be able to claim a discount or follow your call to action in as few clicks as possible.

Best Practice #4: Measure success

Without collecting data and tracking the success of your QR code campaigns, you have no way of knowing their reach and impact. Understanding how users interact with QR codes provides you with insights for future campaigns. This allows you to make the most of your resources and reap the benefits.

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3 of the best QR code retail examples

Victoria’s Secret

VS qr codes retail example
Example of QR code in VS campaign. Source:

Why we liked it: 

We liked this example for its creative advertising that plays off of the brand’s identity and prompts passerby to scan the code to bring new customers into the store. The product reveal is immediately obvious, with no room for confusion.

How 2-Way QR codes could make it better: 

If the person who scanned the code is a first-time customer of Victoria’s Secret, our 2-Way technology will work to build up her profile by offering a 15% discount on her first purchase and prompting her to sign up and receive future push notifications. A day later, she’ll receive a push notification with an offer from the store, encouraging her to return and make a purchase.


Macy's qr code retail example
Example of QR code within Macy’s store. Source:

Why we liked it:

This Macy’s QR code helps college students and their parents keep track of everything they need to purchase for the upcoming semester. It offers strong cross-sell product recommendation potential by arranging the checklist by product and brand and showing more luxury items that prompt additional purchases.

How 2-Way QR codes could make it better:

If the student or parent is a returning customer to Macy’s, a 2-Way QR code would find his profile and bring up a discount coupon from his last online purchase. The code would also offer tips for arranging the dorm room based on the products purchased, which in turn could encourage the shoppers to buy more college dorm items.

Ralph Lauren and Harrods

Harrod qr code retail example
Harrod’s QR code example. Source:

Why we liked it: 

This partnership between Ralph Lauren and UK-based department store Harrods centered around the placement of QR codes in the store that led buyers to the display of Ralph Lauren’s newest clothing line. The map that opens on users’ phones is easy to follow and helps them center in on specific products, increasing the likelihood of purchases.

How 2-Way QR codes could make it better:

After customers arrive at the Ralph Lauren display, our 2-Way QR codes could make their experience better through additional codes placed next to select items. These codes would bring up styling tips and matching accessories to enhance the shopping experience. Customers could also access a discount code from the initial scan and redeem the offer at checkout.

Like these examples and want to know what else our technology can do for your business? Learn how to connect the marketing dots with 2-Way QR codes.

Continuous evolution is vital.

Although the first wave of QR codes in retail didn’t see great success or adoption by major brands, the technology is experiencing a strong comeback in business, promising a new solution for retailers who follow best practices with the customer in mind. 

In a highly competitive post-lockdown era, the businesses that come out on top will be the ones who stand up and fight to stay ahead of industry trends, create memorable experiences for their customers and try new technologies to better engage with their audience. Cross-media marketing is just one of the 2020’s retail marketing trends. See the full list here.

2-Way QR codes in retail are a fitting example of how brands can stand out from the crowd while putting the customer’s needs first. Our omnichannel customer engagement platform uses personalized interactions to turn first-time visitors into satisfied, repeat customers.

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Joyce Qian

View posts by Joyce Qian
Joyce runs Marketing at ContactPigeon. On a daily basis, she ponders on different ways innovative campaigns can translate into significant busienss growth, particularly given the ability to leverage data-driven insights. Outside of work, Joyce loves reading, traveling and exploring her new found home in the ancient city of Athens, Greece. Follow her on LinkedIn.