Tara Schupner, Copy Editor
Tara Schupner, Copy Editor

Any business that neglects the marketing maxim “know your customer” risks doing a painful faceplant onto pavement, as Facebook recently discovered during its IPO debacle.

Some produce marketers, though, have yet to assimilate this.

Understanding produce customers and their behavior is critical to a successful marketing plan, and these days just slapping a QR code onto your apple or orange isn’t going to cut it.

Just as Facebook and its advertisers have learned that social media users habitually ignore paid ad placements, evidence strongly shows that customers also frequently tune out QR codes.

Although a recent study by comScore of European consumers found that product packaging ranks second in QR code scans — at 38% to magazines and newspapers’ 50.9% and fourth-place signage’s 28% — this only covers a small fraction of the total potential market.

Another study conducted by Minneapolis marketing firm Russell Herder found that three in 10 consumers who have seen a QR code before did not know what it was.

In a white paper released last October, Russell Herder also found that only 31% of people who had scanned QR codes more than once felt the information they got was worth their time.

Do the math, and 69% of consumers who scanned QR codes thought it was a waste of their time.

Obviously, produce businesses don’t want consumers to either ignore QR codes altogether or scan them, feel that was a waste of their time, and subsequently ignore QR codes altogether.

Companies that want to effectively use QR codes must ask the tough questions: What can we put on the website that the consumer can’t live without? And when and where is the best time and place to put a QR code before a customer?

Technology should match consumer useRussell Herder recommends that “the ideal location for a QR code is one where the user has both enough time to pull out their phone to scan the code and no other means to quickly engage with the messaging.”

A harried mother of three hurrying through the store to pick up ingredients for dinner before her youngest pitches a tantrum is not a user who has time to pull out her phone and scan a QR code.

At the moment she’s rummaging through a pile of avocados, she likely cares more about pricing and quality than about who picked the product.

Produce marketers need to find a way to inform and persuade consumers that they need — not want, but need — to scan a QR code at some point in their purchasing process, and that it will be worth their time.

Ideas along this vein include information on how to choose the best piece of product or a scannable coupon for the product.

But a QR code alone isn’t enough. Consumers need to know what the QR code will lead to in order to decide whether scanning it is a worthwhile expenditure of their time and energy.

This means signage that advertises clearly what this QR code leads to.

And once consumers are at the site and get what they need, they’ll be more likely to return and browse when they have time.

Here’s where you tack on the novelty stuff.

Another idea is that produce marketers could move past this QR code fad and explore other means of advertising that more effectively engage consumers.

This doesn’t mean retail shoppers who are on the move.

It means people who are sitting at home, on their computers, surfing Facebook.

It means people who are sitting at restaurants, playing with the latest marketing innovation to hit foodservice: small, interactive computer screens at their tables.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal profiled these devices, which are being tested at Chili’s Grill and Bar and Applebee’s, among others. Consumers can use them to order food and play games and watch short video clips while they wait for their meals.

Produce marketers should jump at this potentially more cost-effective opportunity to market to a captive audience. And in family-friendly restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s, with health and nutrition-conscious parents, produce has an advantage over other prospective advertisers such as alcohol.

If restaurants understand their customers too, they’ll team up with you to market the connection between your healthful product and their menu items.

tschupner@thepacker.com

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