What are QR codes?
Quick response (QR) codes are two-dimensional bar codes that can be read by specialised apps on smartphones and tablets or by separate code readers. QR codes are square pixel maps, that can record up to 4,296 characters of information. Originally, codes were used on assembly lines of Japanese factories; today their use has spread to marketing and events/occasions. I’ll tell you all things you need to know to use QR codes as efficiently as possible and to assess their suitability for your business.
How do QR codes work?
QR codes are like bar codes but can store more information. The most common use for QR codes is in smartphone apps using the built-in camera. These apps can be downloaded free of charge for all common smartphone operating systems (OSes) such as IOS, Android, Symbian, and Meego. In the Windows Phone, this app has been built into the OS. The app reads the code using the camera and then interprets it and runs the set task.
What can QR codes do?
When a QR code is read, the encoded information can be used to automatically activate functions on the reader’s device, such as the following:
- Open the desired web site
- Enter the phone number into your phone
- Write an SMS text to a predefined number
- Write an email to a predefined address
- Open a location on Google Maps
- Open a social media profile
Use of QR codes in marketing
QR codes are used in print ads because they allow customers to be pointed easily and quickly to a target web site. The ads create interest in the product and the QR code leads the customer to find out more information on a promoted product. The Likify app can make QR codes that connect the customer to your Facebook page’s “like” button. The code can also be programmed so that the act of reading it will write a tweet from the customer’s device. Some other ways of using QR codes are as follows:
- Product packaging – Space is usually limited, and you can’t fit everything on it that you might want. QR codes can lead the customer to, for example, recipes using the product, how-to videos, or sites that offer more information about the product.
- Coupons – QR codes can also serve as discount coupons that a reader will get when the code is read.
- Sharing a wireless network – QR codes can be used to grant access to wireless networks. For example, the network password can be set in the code.
- Business cards – You can print a QR code on a business card and, when a user reads the code, the information from the business card can be saved into the smartphone without a manual prompt.
- Shopping – eShops are everywhere. QR codes can lead a customer to an eShop to purchase the promoted product right away.
To take advantage of QR codes, you need to provide added value for the code scanners. The main reasons why users are scanning the codes are curiosity and the assumption that, by reading the code, they will get some advantage.
Although reading QR codes looks easy, it still requires several steps from the customer:
- Having a smartphone in his/her hand
- Opening the key lock
- Opening the app
- Focusing the device on the code and reading it
- Waiting for the app to read the code
In this example, it was assumed that the user has already prepared the necessary app to scan your smartphone. The user can therefore be even faster in retrieving the information from Google and then scanning the code. Because QR codes are still relatively rare in Finland, it is good to provide customers a call-to-action to scan the code and instructions on how to do it.
Advantages of QR codes
The great advantage is that QR codes can include a lot of characters. Using a QR code, it is easier to lead a customer to a specific web site than using a URL.
Using a code, you can do much more complex tasks than simply opening websites. QR codes can be tracked. You can find out how many people have read the code and moved through the homepage and made some desired action. QR codes are free and everyone can create one. The Internet has many free generators; QRstuff.com is pretty good.
Drawbacks of QR codes
The usage of QR codes is still very low, and they are not necessarily safe for the user. Before scanning a code, a user does not know what it contains. Some codes could contain links to malicious sites, or the code could cause damage to the reader’s device. For more information on this, read the article by Meg Shannon.
Some people think that QR codes are ugly and do not fit in the ad. However, you can edit the look of a QR code and it can still work. For example, JESS3 has showcased that codes don’t always need to look so tedious.
The most common mistakes
- It is often forgotten that QR codes are generally scanned by mobile devices, and the codes often lead to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices.
- The ad with the QR code is located where there is no cellular service or where mobile phones cannot go. A good example is metro stations and airplanes.
- The marketer does not measure the usage of the QR code. In this case, even the slightest chance to measure whether the QR codes are profitable or if anyone is using them will be lost.
- Reading the QR code does not provide the reader with any added value. Customers choose to read the code mainly out of curiosity and the hope that they will benefit from it somehow.
- Users get turned off when the QR codes don’t work as intended. You should always test the functionality of your QR codes before you publish them.
07 Jan 2017
07 Nov 2016