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Switzerland, Discounts, & QR Codes

Date: October, 2012 --

Do QR codes work?  Don’t just take the USPS’s promotion of them as proof. Take a look at the impressive results of this interesting use of the QR code, which comes to us from Switzerland.   

QR codes in Switzerland

The Swiss company Reka is a non-profit association established in 1939.  It has become one of the most important tourist enterprises in Switzerland. It has two main business areas, called “Holidays” and “Money”- and it is unique and highly respected in the business and the tourism environments.

As concerns Holidays, with a selection of 2,800 holiday homes, including their Family Holiday Villages, Reka is the second largest provider on the Swiss holiday home market. . These facilities annually score about 1.3 million overnight stays in Switzerland and neighboring countries.  

As for “Money”, this “leisure” money system consists of the well-known “Reka-Checks”, “Reka Cash” and “Reka Rail”.  Some 2 million customers use these “currencies” in Switzerland for rail tickets, concerts, museums, gasoline, hotels, cinemas, meals, ski tickets and much more at over 8,700 sales points.  These “currencies” are purchased at discounts varying from 3% to 20% of face value, directly from Reka and at other points of sale.  Also, companies can enroll in a program to fund employees’ personal accounts which can be used for travel and resort expenses at substantial discounts.  It’s sort of a “Holiday 401k” of credit that can be used anytime.

Each year, more than 600 million Swiss francs are spent on leisure activities through Reka or through the Reka-Card and various other payment modalities mentioned above.  That’s about USD 600 million right now.

One of Reka’s challenges is to urge its members and customers to spend their Reka money. After all, the point of the Reka discount is to provide real discounts to members and to provide  business to the service and product providers who accept it!  It’s not supposed to be a savings account.   

To that end, one of the solutions it has successfully employed to encourage spending is direct mail.  In October 2011, Reka used direct mail to target customers who had not exhausted their quota of Reka money.

We’re not sure, but we think the “quota” was credit standing to their accounts through their employers. In short, they hadn’t spent their holiday savings account credits! Such “money” is redeemed for purchases by completing and signing a “payment slip” in favor of an enrolled vendor, somewhat like signing a check.  Keeping its customers armed with payments slips so they’ll spend is an ongoing challenge for the company.

Using a specially constructed self-mailer, Reka offered customers two ways of obtaining more payments slips.  They could sign and return an enclosed business reply card or scan the included QR code with their smart phone and, in just two more clicks on their personalized web page, order more payments slips to be mailed to them.

The self-mailer was deemed a success. 4.99% of those mailed returned the self-mailer card and a remarkable 3.5% of those mailed used the QR code to view their personalized web pages. Noted Reka, “Customers clearly appreciated being able to choose their own mode of control.”  Switzerland is world-class when it comes to technology. It’s not a surprise that the customers would be savvy enough to trust their mobile interaction.

Note how critical to success was getting the address correct. Even though it is “digital”, the offer had to get to the client, didn’t it?  And that envelope of payment slips will have to, also.  Count on Data Services to keep your database accurate and up-to-date so those QR code loaded campaigns will get to that all-important first destination – the right customer’s hands!