QR Codes? What are those?

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You may have seen this peculiar square before, but you might not know what it is. It’s a quick response code, or QR, code. The QR code is kind of a bar code that’s read by a certain app on a smartphone (so, non-smartphone users are out of luck). It’s a new mobile marketing method that can take customers online from an offline medium.

When it’s read, the QR code links to a specific landing page, which can have a special discount or promotion for the person who chose to see what this peculiar square is all about. To read the QR code, the smartphone user needs to download an app, like UpCode or ScanLife. A QR code also works best on a flat surface, so putting them on a t-shirt may be a creative marketing ploy, but the wrinkly shirt surface may make the code difficult to scan, ruining the point of having the QR code in the first place.

Creating a code is relatively easy, as there are free services out there like QR Code Generator and Stickybits that do it for you (as well as provide a free app for reading them, which is a nice and convenient way to encourage people to scan your new QR code). QR codes also don’t have to be black and boring. Their design can be customized, perhaps to match your company’s branding or the theme of the ad or flier on which the QR code will appear.

The great thing about a QR code is that it can be printed on something static, like a flier, a business card, or a magazine ad, and lead to a dynamic landing page. This means you don’t necessarily have to print new fliers or create new magazine ads, you can just change the landing page to which the QR code leads. The code can also lead to something other than a landing. Scanning one could also dial a number, pull up a photo or a video, or a contact form to capture contact information. Since QR codes are still brand new to most people, if you do decide to implement them in your marketing efforts, it would be best to explain what happens once the person scans the code.

Almost 30 percent of people have previously scanned a QR code, while 50 percent have seen or heard of them. They aren’t yet the most popular thing around, but the use of QR codes is growing in prominence. So, next time you see a strange pixilated box on a piece of direct mail or on a poster outside a store front, you’d know exactly what that is, and what to do with it.