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HSN Advances QR Codes To TV—And Then Learns Why They Are So Frustrating

October 12th, 2011

All of those issues notwithstanding, QR codes have huge potential. Indeed, one of the most well-thought-out retail apps of any type was a recent QR experiment by Tesco, where the British chain placed the codes next to every product in pictures of its aisles, pictures that were reproduced on the walls of subway stations. Customers had time to kill while waiting for their trains, and the codes were large, stationary and stayed there for as long as the customer needed. And the links didn’t go to informational Web pages as much as they enabled instant purchases, which were then delivered to the customer.

HSN’s rationale for its too-brief QR code experiment was right on track, though. “Incorporating QR codes into our television programming allows us to provide viewers with a quick and easy path to purchase and get more information about the item they are watching on TV,” said a statement HSN sent that was attributed to HSN’s Digital Commerce EVP, Jill Braff. “QR codes will be available on our HD channel, which currently reaches approximately 43 million households. We are finding that more and more customers are using their mobile devices as a second screen while they are watching our broadcast, so it just makes sense.”

HSN hasn’t released any figures about how much of an impact the QR codes had on sales during the four-day trial, although we have a hint that it may not have been huge. The QR vendor HSN linked to, Scanbuy, didn’t know precisely how much traffic HSN sent to it during the trial, according to Scanbuy Marketing VP David Javitch, but it wasn’t sufficient for his team to notice. “It’s not like we’ve seen a huge uptick in traffic,” he said.

One of the reasons QR codes make so much sense is the huge CRM implications. It potentially extends the “capture every move you make” concept from Web analytics to TV, where individual customers (via their registered phones) are logged every time they want to know more about an item they see.

The potential is absolutely there, but only if the chain pushes just a little more to truly make it as effortless as possible. First, the QR codes should be larger, so they can be shot from a typical TV viewing distance. Second, make the search simple. Using a shortened URL or at least a very easy URL to remember, such as hsn.com/QR. Third, educate all customer service people to understand QR and make it a prominent part of every Web page, especially the homepage. (It had been on the homepage, but only during the four-day trial.)

Most critically, once customers complete the process, give them something valuable, far beyond what they could get by clicking from a traditional Web site. Not forever, but for the first six to 12 months, until clicking on the QR code becomes second nature.

HSN is considering enabling the QR codes to instantly place a purchase order for the item—sort of a one-click approach—but that wasn’t done for this trial. Presumably, safeguards would be in place to prevent inadvertent purchases.

There’s little question that QR codes, when perfected, have huge potential. Beyond recent security concerns, most of these matters can be addressed by making these processes easier. Once resolved, the codes could translate into Quick Revenue. But if rollouts continue to be this cumbersome, it might initially stand for Quite Ridiculous.


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