We are all victims of sensory overload. The number of messages a person sees daily can be upwards of 4,000. Getting your mail piece to stand out is a difficult thing to do. Adding a QR Code or Augmented Reality (AR) to your mail piece can differentiate it in the stack of mail people receive daily. But QR Codes and AR don’t work if you only have it on your mail piece for the sake of having it.

Adding technology like QR Codes and Augmented Reality needs to create a fun, engaging experience to work. You need to use the technology to its fullest to reap the highest returns. First, you must have easy-to-follow instructions that take a person from the mail moment (seeing your mail piece for the first time and feeling excitement) to scanning your mail piece and beginning the journey to purchasing your product or service.

Your mail piece will need the traditional components of a strong offer and a clear call to action. In this case, the call to action can be the instructions to scan the QR code and to receive the incentive within the digital experience. As Vito Corleone said in the movie The Godfather, “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.” With the number of offers a person sees in a day, you need to use creative ways to make yours stand out.

Enhance your AR direct mail with digital content that you may already have or create new experiences such as AR games or a virtual trial of your product. Allow people to place new furniture into their living room or see how updated cabinets, countertops, and appliances will look in the kitchen. For a car buying experience, you could allow the recipient to see what colors and options are available. Be sure to track responses and use the data to see how your customers/prospects are engaging with the offer. See what is working and what is not and adjust as needed. This is a great way to receive data in real-time.

Using AR or QR Codes might mean users will need to download an app such as Blippar or a QR code reader to their smartphones. While newer phones have bar code readers built into their camera functionality, a phone’s App store also has several different QR Code scanning apps that can be downloaded for reading or creating codes. Be sure download instructions are included on your mail piece.

Taking the First Step

To get started with AR, you can use AR creation tools. The advantage of using these tools is that no coding skills are needed, and you can make your direct mail interactive in just a few clicks. Blippar’s drag and drop tool lets you create AR quickly and easily. It allows you to add your own digital content, animation, 3D models, and links to videos.

The advantages of using a QR Code includes the ability to measure how often each code is scanned and obtain click-through information. This will provide you with the data needed to see the effectiveness of your campaign. The user only needs a smartphone or tablet with a QR reader app to activate the experience. With 91% of Americans ages 19-49 owning a smartphone (per a survey conducted by the Pew Research center in 2018), it is easy to reach a wide audience using a QR Code.

AR gives companies the ability to track the total number of scans, the number of unique users, the length of time spent on the app, the click-through rates, and the time of the scan. Once the app scans the advertising image, the user can watch a video, listen to music, make a purchase using mobile commerce, virtually try on clothing, or access an e-book of branded product information. One company found that consumers were 135% more likely to purchase a product viewed through AR than a product they saw in a traditional advertisement.

New Technologies + Postage Discounts = Win/Win

The United States Postal Service has two promotions scheduled for 2020 that reward mailers who use Augmented Reality or QR Codes with an upfront two percent postage discount. The Emerging and Advanced Technology promotion is for both First-Class and Marketing Mail. Registration is open from Jan 15 through August 31, and the promotion runs from March 1 through August 31. The promotion encourages mailers to incorporate emerging technologies like AR, VR/AMR, and Video in Print along with multiple channel mail integration with addressable TV or digital assistants into direct mail.

Since it’s never too early to think about the 2020 holiday season, the Mobile Shopping promotion is being offered again in 2020. The registration period is June 15 through December 31, and the promotion is open for five months beginning on August 1 and ending on December 31. This promotion is designed to have mailers integrate direct mail with mobile technologies to provide a convenient online shopping experience for consumers during the holiday season. The many new mobile barcode formats can be leveraged to qualify for the promotion, in addition to the use of a payment QR code to complete the shopping and purchasing experience. Some of the additional formats that can be used are Dotless QR Codes, Voice QR codes, Twitter QR Codes, Amazon Smile Codes, Pinterest pin codes, and Messenger codes. Participants will receive that same two percent postage discount during this promotion. This promotion is for Marketing Mail letter and flat mail only.

QR Codes and Augmented Reality on a mail piece will increase response rates and allow mailers to receive analytics to help refine offers and increase sales. Combined with the incentives offered by the USPS, there’s no better time to add these technologies to your campaigns than 2020.

Rob Hanks is an inside sales representative at Suttle-Straus and has more than 25 years of experience in direct mail. Rob is a Certified Direct Mail Professional and a Certified Mailpiece Design Professional through the United States Postal Service and serves as the Industry Co-Chairperson for the Greater Madison Area Postal Customer Council. Rob enjoys the challenges of mailpiece design within postal regulations and helping clients save on postage costs.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.