Subway Uses QR Codes the Right Way




May 15, 2013



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A few weeks ago, Joe wrote a great article on QR codes and how they've become more of a disruption in  advertising than they are helpful. Being a curious tech nerd who scans just about every QR code I come across, I have to agree with him. The majority of experiences with QR codes are so-so at best.

I don’t have high-expectations, I just want to be taken to an experience that takes advantage of the fact that I am on a mobile device and shortens the time it takes for me to do what I’ve set out to do. If you just wanted me to visit your homepage, you should have just given me a vanity URL. When I come across experiences like this I feel like I have just been Rick Roll'd, and it makes me want to flip a table.

However once in a blue moon, I come across a QR code experience that's well executed and to my surprise, most recently it was at my local Subway. They were promoting a new ordering app with a QR code that allowed consumers to get their orders quicker and offered a small reward. Below are a few reasons why Subway's QR code advertising was successful in following industry best practices.
Clear Expectations
The poster made it clear that the code would allow me to download the app. When I scanned the code, I was directed to a mobile optimized app page where I could click over to the App Store and download the app with one click. This saved me a few minutes from having to type in the URL with my chubby fingers.
Provided Options
If you don't have a QR Code Scanner they provide a short URL that you can type in, taking you to the splash page for the app.

The popular belief is that by using QR codes you run the risk of alienating a portion of your audience who don’t understand what a QR code is and how to properly scan one. In this case, I think it’s ok. On the app download page, Subway mentions that this is a beta test and that they are looking for feedback on how they might make the app better. This approach helps to limit the number of people downloading the app, but hopefully attracts users who are more tech savvy and able to use the app with minimal direction.
Easy to Access Location
The posters were at eye-level  and easy to scan, so I didn’t have to worry about making a fool of myself trying to get close enough to get a clear picture. For the posters that were hanging overhead, they just included the URL.

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Provided an Incentive to Encourage Engagement
This was the part that really caught my attention. Subway offered a free cookie with every purchase made on the app. Being a BIG FAN of sweets this was a no brainer. Very smart way on Subway’s part to reduce the risk of trying the new app.

I have to applaud Subway’s effort in using a QR code as part of their promotional material for their new app. On top of exceeding my expectations on the experience, the app didn’t fall short either.

Do you know of any other brands that have hit a home run with QR codes in ads? If so feel free to leave them in the comments.


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Stephanie Garcia (not verified) on Wed, 2013-05-15 09:40
With Comic-Con around the corner, I wonder if the Subway in downtown will implement this. That line is always out the door!

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gary on Mon, 2013-05-20 15:51
I just checked and the Subway on Broadway is App friendly! That should save a lot of time with the huge rush that store gets. I think a test is in order. :-)

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John Russell (not verified) on Wed, 2013-05-15 10:25
Free cookie for Gary? Gary's got time for your QR code! Awesome example of a company effectively using QR codes to improve the customer experience. And yes, the downtown Subway shops should definitely look into implementing this to appeal to the hungry comic-con attendees.

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