By now you've probably seen one of these pixelated square barcodes called QR codes on some form of marketing material. It's very common to see these on mailers and on display at some electronic stores. Even the SkyMall catalog was filled them as I was leaving the sub-zero temperature in Iowa behind me a week ago.
What are QR codes?
QR stands for quick response. The idea behind it is that you can scan these codes with your smartphone camera by taking a picture which will then read the information stored, most commonly a URL. It can also store other information such as email addresses, or address information. The potential is limitless in how you store information with these QR codes.
Why are they useful?
QR codes can be very efficient since you only need to scan the code to take you directly to a website without having to type out the URL. In your marketing campaigns, you can place special variables in your URL that identify the source of where the click came through. If you were to print that URL on your ad, chances are low that the user will type the exact URL. For example, if I was selling you an amazing churro making machine on skymall, and I placed a URL for you to follow like http://bit.ly/1hDIiNl, there's a lower chance you'll want to actually type that into your smartphone. On the other hand, a simple QR code could be generated for that URL and you would just simply scan it.
They are also extremely useful in order to take your audience to a website that has more up-to-date information or more details than what the advertising medium would allow. You can fit a lot of information in a small ad by having one of these nifty codes. Some advertisers even include a video to their product where it would not be possible on paper.
How do I generate a QR code?
There are many ways to generate these codes. The best part is that it is absolutely free in most cases! I did a recent search and stumbled upon QRCode Monkey--it's user friendly and provides many options to customize your QR code! You can even upload your logo that will appear on the QR code.
Adjust the size of the QR code so that it will print clearly. If you enlarge a small QR code using an editing tool, it could get blurred and not be readable by scanners.
Take a look around on the web for these generators and be mindful of downloading a desktop application to generate these as it can be spam.
When should I use a QR code?
Like all great things even QR codes can misused or be inefficient. Having a QR code on the product page of your online store might be inefficient if you already have the user on your page. QR codes are great for supplemental information and promo codes. Many wine bottles now even have a code to get more details on the wine. Be sure to place these codes in a visible area so your users know they can interact with your ad.
What can go wrong with a QR code?
Make sure you test your QR code yourself before sending your ad to the printer. Sometimes the fancy customizations you can perform to your QR code can cause the data to be skewed or incorrect when scanning. Remember to have the right size for the medium you're using. You will want a much larger QR code on a billboard so people can see it!
In summary, QR codes can be a great way to give more up-to-date information and interact with your audience. Remember to use these codes wisely and with a purpose by tacking on some extra useful information to the URL for marketing metrics. Now that you have a quick overview of QR codes, where are you going to use it?