Bruce Webster


The emphasis on technology making our lives easier started with the convenience of the pay-at-the-pump credit-card service.

Little did I expect that the timesaver of not having to walk into the store clerk‘s line to pay for gas (imagine the impulse purchasing revenue they’ve lost) would be overshadowed by cellphones and Internet technology that would change our lives! That said, the evolution of mobile devices continues to the point that most of us at least have an iPhone and/or some type of smartphone. Most of us already are using mobile devices in our businesses.


Ins and outs of QR codes

Change is good, especially when it delivers information instantaneously. I spoke with a few leaders in our industry and all of them have heard of QR (quick response) codes, but few are employing their power. The power is there to make your business more money, a higher gross profit and once you get the hang of it (or hire some firm that does) it can help your business run more efficiently. Marketing, sales and operations will all improve.

You’ve all seen a QR code. It’s perfectly square and looks like a maze of squeezed Pac-Man lines inside a box. Sometimes it will have a logo in the middle, but always contains three smaller boxes on the outer edges. These started showing up in the color black in advertising, but are not restricted by color. I’ve seen a Fourth of July promotional QR code in red, white and blue.

This square is the window to another layer of information. You must have an iPhone, iPad, smartphone or tablet to scan this square and download via a code-scanning app on the device. Most people are of this technological culture. Useful in many areas of your business, your showroom is where the optimum use of QR code technology is best utilized.

These are basic informational options most beneficial in the PHCP industry via a QR code:

  • Audio/video

  • Manufacturers’ brochure

  • Your website flyer of concise product features/benefits

  • Value-added services

  • Line cards

Not only is that instantaneous downloaded information, it automatically is stored in the history compartment of the mobile device. This is an easy recall for your customers.

Here’s an example. Mr. and Mrs. Consumer walk into your elegant showroom and turn to the right (retail merchandising research supported) and a poster tells the story of your company with a QR graphic in the middle stating, “Scan and read at home.” Not all can wait! As they move along to your high-end showroom vignette, a place card sits on an easel. “Scan now and turn up the volume,” because it’s a brochure provided by the manufacturer narrated by your showroom manager. As the pair turns the corner into your cascade of working faucet displays, a scan graphic is under clear Plexiglass (water splash-resistant, but mostly for sizzle). This scan goes to your website. Strategically, you have placed primary informational resources to reinforce the purchasing decision.

Professional salespeople may not have time to wait on a customer quickly so instead of frustration, your customer is introduced to information without an available salesperson. Also, pros don’t always say the benefit that hits the right buying nerve but the automated device reduces risk of informational drop. I encourage you to have consumers make an appointment or run the risk of waiting, but not everybody follows this advice. Here are some secondary ways to utilize QR codes in your wholesale business: cellphone text message, “email the manager” and Facebook promotion. Any form of media (written, audio or visual communication) can be linked to a QR code scan graphic.

Showroom benefits

The broad spectrum of product diversity that I have seen in my travels reflects a geographical part of the country whether it’s hydronic heating, a cultural decision for energy-efficient products or merely living by the mantra of we sell it so we show it. Based on that, there certainly is a place for radiant heat, hydronics and energy-saving products that have a story to tell. Stronger supporting information in an understandable format will help maintain gross profit. So put the theory to work in your showroom as a test and grow with its success.

If there is an engineered element to an energy-efficient item that takes an installation skill, why not make more information available? The informed customer, which now includes the trade, is educated and understands. This eliminates field questions to your engineering staff or calls to salesmen.

Before adding industrial products to the QR code family, your business may already be diversified with more technically driven products.


Setting up your QR code scanner

Every iPhone (App Store) and Android smartphone (Google Play store) has free software that adds scanning to your phone’s capabilities. Here’s a three-step process:

  • Choose a free QR scanner (sometimes called a reader) from the App or Google Play stores and download to your device.
  • Select the QR icon from your display of apps (icons are displayed on the phone screen).
  • Point your phone at the QR square and either it automatically absorbs the information or requires you to manually click the camera picture-taking button.

Once you have absorbed a QR square and moved on with or without your purchase, going back to that information is as easy as selecting the icon from the phone screen and selecting “History.” Reviewing stored information increases the chance your customer/prospect will revisit this information to make an educated decision.


QR codes and demographics

In marketing research you’ll be faced with deciding between qualitative or quantitative customers. Do you want quality or quantity? I’ll get you quantity by offering a free drawing or free food. Don’t be surprised if you don’t like the results. Better is the quality customer who demographically matches up with your product offerings. When you perfectly pair a desired demographic profile with compatible technology that your customer is familiar with, your success improves dramatically.

Who is your most sought-after showroom customer? A married, age 35-54, educated homeowner with a high income is a walking, breathing statistical reality. I bet that prospective customer has a mobile phone device on them. Entice them to use it (give them a gentle reminder). After it reaches their objective (as well as yours), they get the information that brought them there. Take nothing for granted and increase the level of QR code usage. Driving for optimum results means a well-thought-out strategy.

In the automobile industry it’s no wonder Lexus uses QR codes and other technology much more than Cadillac, which skews to an older population of ownership. The human behavior interestingly shows older people who are not into technology still buy a Lexus, but young people seldom gravitate to the Cadillac brand.

I recently saw a Kohl’s store ad that leads the consumer with “Download, scan and sign up for a special sale.” A car dealer puts a scan on the window sticker. Even the king of “buy now” sees the value of loading the prospective customer with information that can be reviewed while the sales manager repeats, “I want to earn your business.” Restaurants use QR codes to promote their curbside carryout menu complete with ordering instructions and where to park. Hey, there’s three ways to order takeout: Call ahead, order online or order from a mobile device. A simple brochure has been replaced.  

Anywhere information is a valuable asset QR codes are an efficient, sophisticated link. Their uses are as unlimited as your imagination and many industries are well into this power. Start with a written strategy and a modest approach that can be measured for effectiveness. If it works, increase it with a tweak to your market’s personality.

Experiment with social media, such as separating a code for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. I saw a water-testing company that has a test kit compatible with an iPhone and Android smartphones. Just dip, scan and treat your pool — it’s interactive!

Soon you’ll go from the showroom to your advertising to the counter to the employee lunchroom. Much like pay at the pump, this technology is here to stay. A good thing never loses its allure until replaced by something better.

 Bruce Webster is president of a 20-year-old full-service marketing, sales and public relations firm. His long tenure in the PHCP industry includes being employed by wholesalers and manufacturers. He can be reached at 352/735-1747 or