QR Codes: What They Are, What They Do, and How to Use Them

QR Code

Have you started seeing crazy-looking squares like this popping up everywhere?

This is a QR code. QR stands for Quick Response and it's a type of barcode. It's not one-dimensional like the traditional lined barcodes you're used to seeing on cans of food at the grocery store. Instead, QR codes are two-dimensional, and they can be scanned horizontally or vertically.

QR codes store up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters — an astounding difference from the 20 numbers stored in one-dimensional barcodes. With that much capacity, a QR code may include any combination of information, such as text, a telephone number, an email address, an SMS message, and a contact or calendar entry.

A QR code can also contain a hyperlink which could allow the prospect to look at a dedicated landing page, get a unique discount, send a tweet, Like a Facebook page, receive an IM, check-in on Foursquare, play a video, download an app, and so many other options. QR codes are extremely versatile for businesses.

Just scan the code using a smartphone or QR scanner, and the QR code is converted into a piece of interactive text or link. Basically, it provides almost instant information to mobile devices.

And, the use of QR codes is growing every day …

Amazing ways QR codes are used

Companies around the world have adopted this concept and found interesting ways to get people to interact with their product. For example:

  • When you're walking around town and spot a poster for an event, scan the QR code, and you'll instantly get more details and a link to a website where you can purchase tickets. And, you won’t receive a paper ticket. Instead, a QR code is sent to your smartphone in an email. When you get to the event, you pull up the email on your phone, and let the person "taking the tickets" scan the code on your phone.
  • If you are house hunting, you may notice some realtors are using QR codes on their For Sale signs. Scan the code and you'll receive all the pertinent information about that house, realtor contact info, and sometimes even a link to a virtual house tour.
  • In some countries, you can scan the code on food items. You'll either receive the product's nutritional information or be taken to a website showing how the product was made. (They are showing up on wine bottles, too!)
  • If you are a shopper, you may know that Best Buy was the first national retailer to use QR codes on in-store fact tags for quick access to online reviews and in-depth product features.
  • To take this even further (and my favorite use), Royal Mail in the UK has developed interactive postage stamps (called the Intelligent Stamp) for the Great British Railways. This is a stamp you can use on regular mail. Each stamp depicts a different rail line. The code is embedded in the picture of the train on the stamp. When scanned, you're taken to a video explaining that particular rail line, and the adventures you can take on that train (because it's a real running passenger train). It also gives you the web address to obtain more information and purchase tickets!
  • QR codes are seen on jewelry, tattoos, clothing, and more!

Once the barcode image is created, it can be printed on nearly any surface and location — driving web traffic, interaction, and conversion from anywhere. As long as the location is easily scannable, the use for QR codes is endless.

Create and use your own code

Generating a QR code is amazingly easy. You can create QR codes for free on many different websites. Here's a couple I've used:

  • http://www.Qurify.com
  • http://keremerkan.net/qr-code-and-2d-code-generator/

Now, unless you have a special QR code scanner, you'll need a phone with a camera and a downloaded QR code reader app. Depending on what type of phone you have, here are some you can try:

  • Blackberry App World has a free app called QR Code Scanner Pro.
  • For the iPhone and Android users, try Qrafter or Junaio from the App Store.
  • Even better, some Androids already have QR readers built-in called ZXing. If not, you can download it for free.

8 effective ways you can use them

By creating your own QR codes (called "qurifying"), you can make whatever you want more informative. Bear in mind that the “What’s In It For Me?” maxim is as critical as in other media. If a QR code only leads to a website home page, the reader will be confused and disappointed. QR codes should offer a special incentive or targeted, relevant information when scanned.

You can use these eight ideas for your own marketing, or to help your client’s marketing become more effective and interactive.

  1. Turn the contact information on your business card into a QR code and put it on the front or back of your card. Some people may not want to take your card, for one reason or another, so they simply scan the code. They now have all your contact information in their phone.
  2. Put a QR code that has the URL to your free report sign-up page at the bottom of your promotional piece. Once your prospect scans that code, it immediately takes them to your landing page and, hopefully, they sign up!
  3. Create codes to include on direct-response mailings, brochures, and advertisements. You can easily test different offers.
  4. Put them on promotional give-away items at trade shows, or even on convention nametags! Also use them to promote convention dates and locations, special demonstrations, and more.
  5. Add QR codes to product packaging and link to accessories, installation instructions, a list of replacement parts, or the service directory.
  6. Include on receipts to generate repeat business, offer loyal customers an exclusive discount, or to link to a satisfaction survey.
  7. Insert QR codes into articles as newspapers and magazines are doing to make them more interactive. By scanning the code, readers get to see more about the article or author, or information about a product shown.
  8. Incorporate these codes into your social media marketing strategy. You can use QR codes to link to targeted landing pages, specific blog posts, new videos, and more.

Be creative with them. Just qurify any text or website URL, put the QR code on a product, and make everything more interactive.

Keep in mind, approximately 50 million people in the U.S. alone own a smartphone. And, that number is growing every month. Just think how many more people you can reach with your message when you qurify!

This article, QR Codes: What They Are, What They Do, and How to Use Them, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

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Published: July 27, 2011

6 Responses to “QR Codes: What They Are, What They Do, and How to Use Them”

  1. Kellie--great subject! I've used a free QR code reader before--created a QR code for the back of my son's business card that goes right to his songs on CD Baby which was pretty cool. I'm wondering if any of the free QR code readers have free tracking? Do you know?

    Cindy Cyr

  2. The biggest mistake I've seen with the use of QR codes so far is not having a web optimized page. Sending smartphone users to a regular website defeats the purpose.

    QR codes would also be perfect for surface transportation ads (bus, etc) but not subway unless they are wifi enabled.

    I also think restaurants could put them on their menus to offer a free appy on next visit.

    Thanks for a great article!


    Paul Keetch

  3. Kellie what a fascinating article!

    My mind is swimming with all kinds of ideas. I was going to do research on QR codes, but you did such a great job I understand them now. My mind is swimming with all kinds of great ideas.

    Thanks for the great info.

    Tonimarie Marrese

  4. Thanks for a great article Kellie. And good links.

    Re Paul's comment, I've seen QR codes on subway ads a lot in the UK. I wonder if they were tested first...

    Guest (Sophie Skarbek-Borowska)

  5. Great piece. I'm going to look into this for my new business cards.
    Thanks for the info.

    Anthony Contreras

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