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A Banker’s Guide to QR Codes

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A Banker’s Guide to QR Codes

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Eric considers himself a “recovering banker” of 15 years, who for the past eleven years has focused his efforts as a digital strategist, helping his clients (mostly community banks) better understand and leverage the power of the Internet as a strategic business tool. An award-winning web designer with WSI, the world’s largest digital agency network, Eric is a two-time contributing author to the best-selling book Digital Minds – 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. Consistently rated in the top five digital marketing books on Amazon, the book is in its second edition and available in three languages.

A sought-after, nationally-recognized speaker in the financial services industry, Eric is a member of the National Speakers Association and loves sharing his knowledge to help educate and inspire others. He is the co-creator of a weekly webinar show called Free Webinar Wednesdays, founder of the Banker Education Series webinar series, and serves as a faculty member at several banking schools around the country where he teaches bankers about digital strategy, online marketing and social media. He is a WSI Certified LinkedIn Professional and holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and psychology. While working full-time as a community banker, Eric earned his MBA and completed the three-year Graduate School of Banking program in Madison, WI in 2003.

Professionally, Eric helps his clients in all areas of digital marketing, which includes mobile-responsive web development, search engine marketing and optimization, social media strategies, e-mail communication, and “big-picture” digital strategic planning. He’s the co-founder of DigitalRCP.com, a service created to help businesses understand their risk when it comes to operating in today’s digital world. When he’s not helping his clients succeed online, he can typically be found on one of his many bicycles training for his next mountain bike/triathlon race or spending time with his wife and two (very spoiled) golden retrievers.

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Summary:

You’ve likely seen QR codes around, but maybe you’re wondering how to put them to work in the banking industry? As part of our goal of helping banks embrace digital marketing strategies they can “take to the bank,” we’ll cover what QR codes are, how to make your own, and some creative ways that you can put them to work for you.

What is a QR Code?

First, what is a QR code? QR codes (or Quick Response codes) are generated symbols that represent an action (most of the time a URL to a webpage) that can be quickly scanned by mobile devices. They’re like UPC barcodes you find on consumer goods at the store in the sense that they use shapes to store information, but because of their unique design, they are able to store a great deal more information than a regular barcode would. 

These square-shaped black and white symbols can hold content, event details, coupons, links, and more. Unlike one-dimensional barcodes, QR codes are two-dimensional. The data stored in them can be read horizontally and vertically, which makes scanning them super easy. All of this makes QR codes an incredibly useful marketing tool. 

What QR Codes Can Do

Here are more examples of what QR codes can do:

  • Link to download your bank’s mobile banking app on Google Play or the Apple Store
  • Direct users to a website URL, like a special landing page
  • Prompt users to call a phone number
  • Generate an SMS text message to opt-in for marketing messages
  • Send and obtain payment information
  • Share personal details (like via a traditional business card - but electronically)

How to Produce QR Codes

Although there are plenty of QR code generators to choose from, the most popular one seems to be QR Code Generator

Creating a QR code using the QR Code Generator website is super easy (and you can even create a free account to save your created QR codes in their own folders for easy access later).

  1. Choose what kind of content you want to promote. There are multiple options for you to pick from. You can direct users to a website, share contact details via a vCard, get a text message, send an email, show a video, engage on social media, present a mobile-optimized PDF, and so much more. QR Code Generator allows for you to create Static or Dynamic Codes, (see screenshots below).
  2. Enter the relevant information. For example, if you choose to direct people to a URL, you’ll want to enter that destination into the text box (and if you want to get maximum tracking, don’t forget to “tag” the URL using UTM codes to further track information inside of your Google Analytics). 
  3. Tailor the QR code to your brand. Once you’ve got a QR code, you can make it look like your bank logo, add frames, change the format and colors. This option is fun, but avoid changing it too much - QR codes are easier to read when they’re simpler. 
  4. Download the QR code. Try generating two versions of the code you want - one basic version and another with fun design elements. You’ll have two different ones to test - and if the more complex code doesn’t scan, you can use the simpler form. 
  5. Test out your QR code. There’s nothing worse than generating a QR code for marketing purposes, only to find no one can scan it. The great part is these days you don’t need to download a dedicated QR Code app - any current mobile camera will recognize the code and give you the option to use it with ease. Just make sure you test it yourself to ensure it takes you where you want to go!

Static Code Example

Above: QR Code Generator allows for you to create Static Codes for content that won’t change over time.

Dynamic Code Example

Above: Or, for even greater functionality create Dynamic Codes and really take your QR Code game to the next level! 

 How to Avoid Bad QR Codes

Unfortunately, because QR codes can’t be read by humans and we have to trust where they are taking us, bad actors have begun tampering with QR codes to direct unsuspecting victims to malicious sites. For that reason, the FBI has released the following tips to avoid QR code scams:

  • Make sure the code hasn’t been tampered with. Before you even scan the code, make sure that no stickers have been placed over the original code. If it appears a sticker’s been placed on top of it, don’t scan it. 
  • Check the URL of every site you find to make sure it’s legitimate. We know it may be small on your phone, but be sure to look over the URL that loads carefully when you find a site through a QR code. Malicious domain names are often similar to intended URLs but with typos or wrong letter placement. (Instead of godaddy.com a malicious site may be godady.com or goddady.com). This is where using the .Bank domain for your website (and your QR Codes) can really come in handy to help customers know your codes are legit!
  • Download apps from an app store. Although it’s possible to download an app from a QR code, the FBI recommends against it. Apps downloaded from an app store have more security protections than apps downloaded from QR codes. 
  • Don’t download QR code scanner apps. The FBI recommends against it because it can increase your chances of downloading malware onto your phone. “Most phones have a built-in scanner through the camera app,” they added.
  • Avoid making payments to a site accessed through a QR code. Getting people to enter personal payment information is one of the ways scammers use malicious QR codes to their advantage. If someone generates a QR code with a payment app (like Venmo or PayPal) always reach out to them directly to ensure they really did send you the code (and that the payment request is legit). 
  • Double-check the codes you get from people you know. Hackers like to send malicious codes to the friends and family of their victims. If you see a QR code from a friend, contact them another way to ensure that it’s really from them and is safe. If they have their phone or email compromised, just because it’s coming from someone you know does not guarantee that it’s safe.

QR Code Analytics: What They Are

With trackable QR codes, you can see where, when, and which device your codes have been scanned with. Plus, if you are linking to a page on your website (and you have Google Analytics installed), you’ll be able to enhance your tracking with a variety of helpful UTM elements to further segment and track your visitors with Google’s URL Builder!

  • Scans over time. Get a breakdown of scans by day to show you when you’re peaking (and when the campaign may have fizzled out). 
  • Device tracking. You’ll know what brand and model scanned your device, and what browser and operating systems those devices use. 
  • Country and city location. You can quickly see from where your QR Code is being scanned to further help understand your audience and where they are using the code.

Example Scans from QR Codes

Above: An example of QR Code details from QR Code Generator for a campaign showing the number of times the code had been scanned, plus “full statistics” shows you even more information like the cities where the code was scanned.

Other Marketing Strategies and Use Cases for QR Codes

Here are some ideas of how you can use QR codes for community banks. Remember, the great part about a QR code is that it takes an “offline” experience and pulls the person into an “online” one via their mobile device: 

  • Put QR codes on handout materials. You can add them to lobby flyers, drive-thru transaction envelopes - anything that goes into the hands of your customers. Plus, if you keep the handouts generic, that gives you the ability to change details (like rates, terms, special offers, etc.) on the website - without having to reprint them when things change.
  • Add QR codes to posters and signs. You can add it to lobby posters so customers can scan them as they wait, or you can add them to drive-thru signs to share a special message with your customers. Maybe even link to a video from your CEO with a rotating monthly greeting or an announcement about something special to really add value (and personality) to the message.
  • Use QR codes to promote community events. Here at WSI, we’ve used the QR Code Generator platform to promote and make it easy to register for community events on mailings and postcards to help recipients sign up and learn more via a mobile-friendly landing page.

Bonus strategy: Use dynamic codes or set up a redirect on your site. 
As mentioned above, there are two types of QR codes: dynamic and static. The static ones only ever go to the same page, but dynamic ones can be changed to direct users to different pages. With a little creative know-how, though, fixed QR codes can be used like dynamic ones. 

But here’s how to take a static code and make it dynamic with a little website magic. Let’s say you want to create a QR code for your bank that will deliver a quarterly video update from the CEO. You’d create a QR code for the URL www.bankname.com/ceo-quarterly-video-update. However, the page itself won’t have any content on it - it’ll be used as a placeholder for the QR code. On the back-end of the website, you’ll set up a redirect to www.bankname.com/blog/ceo-video-update-q1-2022. When someone scans the code, they’ll be taken to the first URL and redirected to the blog post. 

When it comes time for the second quarterly update of 2022, go to the first URL you created for the QR code and simply change the redirect location. The code will stay the same, but the redirect will be to the new post. 

Still Baffled by QR Codes? Contact Us!

Have any questions about QR codes and how to use them? At WSI, we have over 30 years of experience in digital marketing and working with banks. If you’re ready to learn more about how we can take your bank to the next level, contact us today - we’d love to power up your digital marketing strategy!

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