China Paradigm interviewed Benjamin Claeys, the founder of QRzebra and Lihaoma, to learn the secrets of providing QR code solutions in China and some specific cases of QR code business on WeChat.
Benjamin Claeys, an architect by profession and entrepreneur & QR code specialist by a mission
Claeys has a professional background in architecture. After completing his master’s degree in architecture at LUCA School of Arts in Brussels, Benjamin Claeys has participated in several big-scale architecture projects including the CCTV building in Beijing. Then, in 2010, he demonstrated an interest in marketing and founded an interactive glass design company, Nono Muaks. Through that experience, Claeys has also acquired a better insight into digital marketing in China.
Then, in 2015, he established Lihaoma, a platform focusing on gamified advertising in China. Around three years after Claeys founded a start-up, he noticed the potential of QR codes and decided to set up another company, QRzebra, to leverage QR code for branding in China. When we asked about his career change from an architect to a technology entrepreneur, Benjamin said that these two have something in common:
“An architect cannot put two bricks together, but he knows how to make a building with those bricks. So, he can conceptualize a building and it is the same thing when you do IT…it’s about coordinating them and seeing that we have a vision”
From Lihaoma to QRzebra: from game advertising to QR code solutions in China
Lihaoma concentrates on gamified advertising in China: users going on the APP can play different types of games and get some incentives. Brands can also leverage Lihaoma to customize their own games and appeal to potential users. For example, Lihaomao is able to generate QR codes for users to log in specific games more conveniently. This is the tipping point that led Benjamin Claeys to set up his new company: QRzbra.
“Going with Lihaoma; that was the first start-up where I, in fact, learned everything about: A) running a business, and B) finding a model that people want to pay for – and that’s in fact what brought me to the second company because in Lihaoma we were busy a little bit with QR codes.”
Nowadays, QR codes are widespread in China and have various functions. It is also becoming popular all over the world: Claeys is currently not only doing QR code solution in China but also in 88 other Western countries.
QR code business on WeChat, the most popular social media in China with the strictest regulation
QRzebra is able to redirect users to different websites, social media, and Taobao stores through scanning and clicking the corresponding QR code. Nowadays, there are many mini-programs, H5 games, and official accounts on WeChat with its large number of daily active users. However, as the internet regulation is much stricter in China than anywhere else, you need to be more careful in conducting QR code business on WeChat because you will face the risk of being blocked at any time.
Claeys shared one of his experiences in the QR code business on WeChat: someone was trying to sell illegal items on WeChat using QRzebra and was instantly blocked with a notification page like the one above.
“They block your domain. That means not one of our customers could use WeChat too – because everybody scans with WeChat – so, then you need to figure out a very quick solution.”
Claeys suggests when you develop the QR code business on WeChat in China, if you get blocked for any reason, the first thing you need to do is to quickly understand the reason and come up with an instant solution. In the meantime, it is also worth a try to communicate with WeChat official to fix it.
QR code for branding in China, an innovative branding strategy
Different ways exist to leverage QR code for branding in China. According to Benjamin Claeys, some luxury brands like Gucci have come to them for QR code design outside of stores, so that the passers-by would be able to get information on the sales and promotion before they go in.
What’s more, QR code is also a good way to reach more potential customers through networking. For example, as every Chinese is using smartphones now, it would be great to offer them the opportunity to share their instant findings by scanning QR codes:
“By engaging the users, they can straight away share the info about your good with somebody. That is also a powerful thing. I am in a store and I see something cool. I scan it and I can say, ‘Hey I want to share my research’ or here, ‘I want to share it with my friends.’”
To sum up, Claeys believes that doing QR code for branding in China is not enough just to motivate customers to scan a QR code; apart from that, the codes also need to be well-designed and considerately arranged. In a nutshell, it has to be user-friendly and innovative.
Listen to this episode here: