As the health crisis hit the world, every business sector had to look wide and far for new resources to tap—and most professionals found that, sometimes, the most useful solutions are not the newest ones.
QR codes have been around for more than 20 years, but they have really taken off since the onset of COVID-19, as they are a reliable digital tool that provides a contact-free experience, from restaurants to bus stops and medical clinics.
In the real estate world, the retail and hospitality industries—which were not as prepared to pivot quickly, according to multifamily consultant Nicole Salmieri, founder and president at Salmieri Advisory Services—were among the first sectors to embrace this long-overlooked technology. The multifamily sector followed suit, relying on the use of QR codes to attract prospects, offer information about events and invite residents to write reviews on the property’s website.
“For the first time in my seven years in property management we utilized QR codes during the pandemic,” Joseph Deardurff, property manager at Marquette Management, told Multi-Housing News.
And QR codes seem to be here to stay. “There’s very little cost involved. Many consumers have come to expect it and know how to use it and feel comfortable doing so. It allows us to be available to them in a way that is familiar to them,” Deardurff noted.
FROM PAPER TO WEB
The QR (or “Quick Response”) code system was invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara from the Japanese company Denso Wave. Its initial purpose was to scan and track vehicles during manufacturing. QR codes are now used much more broadly in commercial tracking applications like the U.S. Postal Service as well as applications for mobile phone users.
They have been used in Times Square on Calvin Klein magazine ads, under the cap on PepsiMax bottles and on LinkedIn profiles.
R codes can display text to a user, open a webpage on the user’s device, add a vCard contact to the user’s device, connect to a wireless network or compose an email or text message.
Technology has made QR codes easier for people to use, according to MarketReach blogger Dan Jury. And as our phones have gotten smarter, Apple and Android devices have become instant QR scanners in camera mode.
QR STRIKES BACK
One advantage of using QR codes is that there is no need to download a third-party QR reader app. Thanks to enhanced recognition technology, you just have to activate camera mode on the phone and point it at a QR code to trigger a digital action or connected experience. This is the game-changer that has led to the revival of QR codes.
QR Codes have a wide range of uses across all types of industries such as retail, marketing and logistics. The single-family real estate sector has embraced QR codes because they can turn a lawn sign, business card or billboard into a website with one image. When the image is scanned by a mobile phone, the website, text, phone number or other data programmed into the code will appear.
The potential for QR codes as a real estate marketing tool are limitless. Prospects driving by an apartment community can scan the QR code on the signage and be taken to a video tour on YouTube, a gallery of interior photos or a page with prices, amenities and availability.
REACHING PROSPECTS WHERE THEY ARE
When prospects are taking a self-guided tour of a Marquette model, they see display frames with the QR code directing them to “scan here” for amenities, real-time availability and pricing.
“The prospect can see what’s available while on the tour, even if an agent isn’t there to immediately respond to questions,” Deardurff told MHN.
A QR code can be created in just a few minutes by the marketing team. There are many QR code generators on the market, including free and subscription-based platforms. Simply type in the web address where you want to direct your user and the program will create a unique code or multiple unique codes.
“Depending on the program you’re using, you can modify and customize for your brand with logo and property color,” Deardurff said. You can create multiple codes.
It’s always beneficial to get prospect feedback regarding QR codes to see how campaigns are enhancing the overall marketing plan.
“When our agents are following up with prospects after the tour, we do ask them if they utilized the codes and found them beneficial,” said Deardurff. whose QR code platform also enables his team to track how many times each QR code has been scanned to see which ones are performing better than others.
“You want to make sure you’re staying relevant and that your information is getting across to the user,” he noted.
TECHNOLOGY FOR A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD
Morgan Properties first tested QR codes years ago, when it was the cool new technology, but their interest waned quickly. In March 2020, when the company needed new tools to navigate a socially distanced pandemic marketplace, the marketing team decided to give it another try—and they have not been disappointed.
“We were touchless and trying not to have anything with paper. We put QR codes on our brochure boxes,” Kim Boland, director of digital marketing at Morgan Properties, told MHN. “When people came to the property, they could scan the brochure box for a digital copy of the brochure.” The technology has also become a way to cut down on printing costs and waste.
Prospects’ behavior has changed over the past year, according to Boland—but this will only challenge her team to find more unique ways to use QR codes.
For example, June is Alex’s Lemonade Month, and Morgan Properties reaches out to its apartment communities to help raise funds for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. The marketing team has inserted a QR code in their in-house production video that makes it easier for people to donate. This way, the donors won’t have to deal with a very long link that they would have to remember, write down and type in during the video. Instead, they just have to pause the video and scan the code.
“I don’t think QR codes are going away,” Boland said. “I think they’ll be around for a while as people stay away from paper and we continue using mobile devices and digital. QR codes are second nature.”
Apartment prospects know what to do when they see them, but marketers need to be sure they’re putting relevant content out there.
“Don’t spend the time creating a QR code if no one is going to click on the link to utilize the information at the other end,” Boland said. “That’s what happened in the past when QR codes first came out. People just weren’t interested in it.”