You see QR codes all over the place now. They are those square, black and white matrix bar codes or 2D codes that you see on products, posters, in ads and on other marketing materials. People can scan them quickly with their mobile phones and unlock a variety of related content. They can be used to simply point someone at a sales website or you can get a little more imaginative. Big brands are embracing them and people are starting to scan them more and more. There’s no barrier – they are free and easy to implement.
QR actually stands for Quick Response and the codes were originally used in car manufacturing in Japan. Since the smartphone explosion they have been adopted by many businesses because anyone with a smartphone can scan a QR code. They are usually used to point the user at a website which offers more information about the product or service being advertised and enables them to make a purchase. They are ideal for linking the physical world to the virtual world, a simple way of providing an accessible link to further information online.
What Would I Use a QR Code For?
There’s really no limit to how you can use them. Here are a few ideas for where to use QR codes.
- Products – a QR code on the label of a product can lead interested consumers to further information or special promotions.
- Posters and adverts – whether you are highlighting a product or an event you can add a QR code to the ad and it provides an easy link to further information.
- Brochures and leaflets – with limited copy space the addition of a QR code allows you to offer more to interested parties.
- Business cards – a handy link to all of your online details from your business card is definitely a good idea.
- Tickets – this allows people to buy tickets for events online and then print them out at home dispensing with the need for physical delivery.
Use QR Codes Imaginatively
There are a lot of other interesting ways to use QR codes.
- You could stick them on badges at a conference to provide more info on each participant.
- You could use them in locations at festivals or even tourist spots to allow people to check exactly where they are (this ties in nicely with navigation services on smartphones).
- You could allow people to scan them to buy products when waiting in line or in stores for home delivery later.
- You could use them as a way for customers to access freebies or coupons.
- You could use them to provide up to date information on a service or location.
- You could use them to trigger video or audio or even augmented reality overlays to bring a static ad or location to life.
- You could use them to access “how to” instructions on a product, ideal for flat pack furniture or DIY.
The possibilities are endless, from simple directions to a personalized audio message. The QR code is a powerful tool. At the very least you should use them to direct people to a mobile optimized website with all of your vital business info and a call to action. Whatever web page you do send people to make sure it is optimized for mobile devices or you’ll just frustrate them.
How to Create a QR Code
The great thing about QR codes is that they can hold a lot of information and anyone can create their own QR code and use it to promote their business.
There are a lot of QR services online, many of them free. I used Kaywa to create this QR code. It is a simple and straightforward QR generator that allows you to create your QR code in seconds. You’ll find a host of other options if you want something different.
Once the code is generated you can download the PNG file and use it on any materials you like. You can also just copy and paste code from the site to place it on the web but QR codes work best as virtual links from the physical world.
Adopt QR Codes the Right Way
Just like any other marketing tool you have to use QR codes the right way to make them worthwhile. Think about the practicality of scanning the code for the consumer – subway posters don’t make a lot of sense because there’s no reception down there, elevated billboards could be equally tough for people to scan, and TV ads are over too quickly.
It’s also a good idea to give people an incentive to scan, give them some idea about why they should bother. You need to make sure that there’s some value when they get there or they’ll be turned off and annoyed.
It’s likely we’ll see newer options like augmented reality and NFC being employed in more interesting ways to allow people to interact with the physical world using their smartphones but QR codes are popular right now and they are so easy to implement that you really have no excuse not to use them.
Got any other good ideas about how to use QR codes? Post a comment.