Explaining QR Codes

Posted by on Jun 24, 2011

This week’s Digital Download takes a closer look at something we’ve all have had a little contact with: The QR Code.

QR codes (or Quick Response codes) condense information into two dimensional squares that connect offline media to online content via a smartphone. Also known as mobile tagging, QR codes act like URL references on offline media and other flat surfaces.

In other words: QR Codes help make traditional advertising interactive.

Why Bother With QR Codes Now?
The growing use of smartphones is driving the increased use of QR codes. While smartphone penetration is only about 30 percent of the U.S. market, this number is on the rise.

Since the market is still adjusting to QR codes it’s important that we understand how they can be used, why we’d want to use them and what factors need to exist for them to be used successfully. QR codes may not be right for every client or project but they definitely have a spot in our execution tool kit, as long as we’re smart about that execution.

Engage users

QR Codes provide a great gateway for users to have an interactive brand experience.

Whether it’s on an in-store dangler and provides more information about the product, a print ad that let’s a user immediately register for an event or a poster that gives users a chance to enter a contest, QR codes can provide access to deeper content despite the space limitations.

It doesn’t stop there, QR codes can be used to link to or send; URLs, map links, contact information, email address, text notes, phone numbers, RSS feed links, web service deep links (App store, social media messages/checkins, etc…), SMS messages, and make a phone call.

Connect offline and online content easily

With QR codes, readers don’t need to type in a complex URL. They can just scan the code and are taken to the appropriate page. For example, QR codes are great in printed magazines where you want to direct a user to a specific page or a video without requiring users to enter a long URL. They can also be used to extend the experience by letting a user take that next step by just scanning the code.

Make mass media responsive

QR Codes can be placed on any 2D surface such as business cards, conference materials, store signage and windows, product packages and flyers. We’ve all seen a QR Code as the simple black and white pixel pattern but that’s not the only way they come. QR Codes can have different colors, embedded shapes or objects and be made out of almost any material. The key here is to test the QR before moving forward.

Immediate Gratification

Give users more relevant information when and where they want it. Research shows consumers prefer to get product and sales information via their smartphone when they’re in retail establishments rather than consult store personnel. Retailers can benefit by placing QR codes on products, shelving, circulars and signs to provide information that helps close the sale.

Make media trackable

As with any marketing program, it’s important to track your QR code’s metrics. Knowing how people interacted with the code can help optimize how they are used going forward. Since QR codes require a smartphone and a QR code reader, results may be low. However, adding a QR code to a non-interactive poster means now you have an interaction point where one didn’t exist previously and it can be measured. If you’re looking for a good comparison; QR code usage is about the same as usage of URLs added to print marketing.

Best Practices

  • QR codes should link to a URL that is optimized for mobile viewing.
  • QR codes linking to a URL should include tracking information. (UTM’s or a custom URL). That way we can measure how well it’s doing.
  • QR codes should be at least one inch square. If it’s too small it won’t scan easily.
  • If they link to a website they should be placed in areas that have connectivity.
  • The QR code should include a clear call to action that tells the user what they’ll get for scanning it.
  • In most cases QR codes should be accompanied by alternative methods of interaction such as a URL or SMS code. That way even people without a smartphone can join in the experience.
  • Depending on who you are targeting, you may want to provide instructions on how to use QR codes since not everyone is familiar with them.
  • An incentive may be needed to motivate prospects to scan since they may need to install a QR code reader.
  • Most Importantly: TEST. QR codes can be a great way to connect with your users but if they don’t scan or don’t go to the right content they’re worthless. It’s important that when a QR code is used in any material that it’s tested using multiple devices and multiple programs.

Thanks for your time. See ya next week!

For more information about how QR codes are being used check out these links:
This Digital Download inspired in part by: