You’ve probably seen them around town, in stores, on products, in magazines, and wondered “what are those black and white square barcodes?” Let me break it down for you.
Those funny looking black & white square barcodes are called “Quick Response Codes”, or “QR Code” for short. They’re a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) originally designed in Japan for the automotive industry.
Traditional one-dimensional (UPC) bar codes can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, but since QR codes are two-dimensional, they can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. This ability and ease of use makes them a practical tool for the small business owner.
QR codes are designed to be scanned with a QR reader, typically on your smart phone, i.e. iPhone, Android, or other mobile device. Once scanned, the code will display further information, or perform an action which has been programmed into it. The most utilized QR code feature is linking to a website URL to learn more about a product or service, but it can also be used to display a map or coupon, send a text or tweet, play a video, and many other usages.
QR Code Uses
Here’s a list of some of the most popular functions that can be utilized within a QR code for business mobile marketing campaign:
- browse to your website
- bookmark your website
- call your business
- send you a text message
- send you an email
- create an address book entry with your contact info
- download your contact info
- create a calendar event
- display a map
- give directions to your business
- display your latest coupon
- download your business app
- perform a Google search
- send a tweet about your business
- “like” your Facebook page
- “check in” to your location
- watch your company video
- listen to your business jingle
- …and much more
Are you starting to see how these funky little squares can benefit your business?
QR codes don’t have to be boring black and white squares. You can have multiple colors, and even include an image within them. There are companies who specialize in custom QR code creation that will place your logo directly in the code!
QR Code Mistakes
Now, just because QR codes have the ability to perform all these functions doesn’t mean you should try to use all of them. In fact, I see more businesses misusing QR codes than I see them being used properly.
One of the biggest offenders of QR code misuse is directing a user to a non-mobile optimized website. If your company website is Flash based, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users won’t be able to view it. Also, if your site doesn’t have a mobile version or utilize a responsive or fluid layout, the site will require pinching and zooming, which can be rather annoying to most mobile users.
Another common mistake is directing users to your business Facebook page or Twitter account. The reason this is a mistake is that most users don’t use their phone’s web browser to access social media sites, they use a native smart phone app to interact there. Because of this, they most likely won’t be logged into their account, so it makes it difficult and annoying to try and engage with you.
So you’re probably asking, “how do I create a QR code for my business” and “Where do I get a QR code scanner?” Glad you asked.
Probably the best and most standards compliant option is Qrafter. It’s super easy to use, and there is an iPhone app for it as well, so you can create QR Codes on the fly. (If you’re an Android phone user, it has a built in QR code reader.)
QR Code Best Practices
Here’s quick list of some of the best practices that you should consider using QR codes for in your own business.
Place your content info in a QR code to be scanned and automatically downloaded to the user’s address book.
This is something we’ve been using for the past year. A QR code on the back of your shirt that takes someone to a custom landing page on your site with a call to action.
If you have a restaurant, placing a QR code next to each menu item so that it can be scanned for nutrition information, pictures, etc. is a great way to up sell your items.
If you’re a realtor, each flyer and for home sale sign should have a QR code that takes someone to a landing page with property details, photo gallery, price, terms, etc. It’s a great way to leverage your time and weed out lookers.
Link your product instruction sheet to a video explaining how to setup or use the product. Will save phone and customer service time.
If you’re running a coupon or limited time special, have a QR code link to download the coupon that has to be presented in store. This can also be tracked to see the effectiveness of the ad.
Set up a QR code that has to be scanned whenever someone purchases a product or checks out at your store. After x amount of scans, they get a coupon or gift certificate.
Click to Call
Place in a yellow pages ad so that someone finding your business there can scan the code and call you automatically.
Direct Mail Campaign
Create a direct mail campaign that has a QR code that when scanned plays a video of you addressing them personally. Talk about increasing response rate!
Promote an Event
Create a QR code that when scanned adds the event to the user’s calendar.
Automatically Send a Tweet
Create a QR code that when scanned will automatically send a tweet about your business and follow your Twitter account. A great way to gain Twitter mentions and increase followers.
You may not have experienced it yet, but you’ll probably try to scan a QR code in the future and it won’t scan. This can happen for several reasons.
First, the code may be too small for your scanner to read. This usually happens when the amount of data included in the QR code causes it to become so detailed that the size is not scannable unless enlarged greatly. A good way to help reduce the size of your QR codes when linking to website is to use a link shortening service such as Bit.ly.
Second, the QR code may not scan if it’s distorted or pixelated. Each code has an error correction level where it will still scan even if a certain percentage is damaged or removed. If this threshold is reached, then the code will not be readable by the scanner.
Remember, just like all marketing tools or strategies, just because a QR code can be used for something doesn’t mean it should be. If there’s a more effective or efficient way to get the same information across, then use it. Don’t use a QR code simply for the novelty of it. Use them to give a better experience to your customers, and in turn, your engagement level, usage, and conversion will all increase instead of flop.
Are you using QR codes in your marketing or customer service offerings? How’s the response? Share in the comments below.