Using QR codes

Saturday, April 6th, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Everywhere we go, we are now confronted with QR codes.  It seems like the newest trend that every business has jumped on board with, yet most don’t know why.  Just the other day at the bank, I was handed a business card with a QR code on the front.  When I asked where the QR code would send me, the person who owned the card said, “I’m not sure, I think it goes to my email.”  I opened the QR scanner on my phone and tried it – and got a 404 that the page wasn’t available.  She had no idea what I was supposed to see, there was no information to guide me, and it didn’t work anyway.  Let’s just say it was a QR FAIL.  It did lead to a short discussion about QR codes though, which echoed so many other conversations I’ve had before – what is it, why is it there, what is it for?

What is a QR code?

QR code for Trends home page

QR code on our own business cards that gives quick access to the home page on our website for mobile visitors.

Let’s start at the beginning.  QR stands for “quick response”, in other words, it is supposed to do something quickly.  In the context we are discussing, a QR code is meant to be quick access to a web page or a download location using a Smartphone.  It’s a special type of barcode that is read by a QR code reader application and uses the camera in the Smartphone to grab the image (For those who want some depth and background, you can read the Wikipedia entry).

Why is a QR code on my business card, brochure, postcard, “fill-in-the-blank” advertising piece?

Good question, and you should know the answer to it.  If you don’t, it’s time to have a discussion with those in charge of your advertising and marketing. Remember, those QR codes are meant to provide quick access to something important, and it should relate to the information it accompanies.  Whatever the advertising piece is, the QR code should expand on it by providing the visitor with information that takes them to the next step.  Consider this: if someone takes the time to get their phone out, find their scanner, and then scans the QR code, they already have interest!  Whatever you give them at the other end of that QR code better be connected to that interest and valuable enough to leverage the momentum and move them into calling, shopping, buying, or whatever you are hoping they will do next.

Good uses for QR codes

QR code to download the Belief Re-patterning app for iPhone and Android

The QR codes to download the Belief Re-patterning mobile app on iPhone and Android that we created for Suze Casey and the Sequana Wellness Group.

The most basic reason is often just to provide quick access to your website for those on mobile devices: iPhones, Android phones, tablets, iPads, etc. This is a common and reasonable use of a QR code.  However, if you are using a QR code to provide quick access to your website for mobile users, your website should be ready for mobile devices when they arrive.  If they need to swish, squint, and zoom around to read the pages, their interest will quickly fade.

Another common use for a QR code is to connect visitors with the download location of a mobile app for their Smartphone.  The QR code allows them to download and start using the app immediately without having to search for it in the Google Play or iTunes app stores.

In other cases, QR codes have a more specific marketing purpose, and this is where things get exciting.  Unique QR codes can be designed to go to a specific page of your website offering unique content.  It could be a service you are highlighting, a coupon or discount, a contest, a sign-up or donation form – whatever your marketing campaign is meant to focus on.  By using the unique QR code, you are able to get visitors directly to your landing page or time-sensitive “call to action”, and you can more easily track the statistics of the campaign without relying on anyone to type the page address in correctly.  These QR codes are a powerful part of your marketing and can be very effective if you plan and execute them as part of a marketing campaign.

There are many great uses for QR codes so it’s no surprise we are seeing them everywhere we turn.  However, there are still some challenges.  The technology is still evolving and there are sometimes compatibility hiccups with QR scanners and readers.  People are still often unaware of how to read them with their Smartphone (do I have to download something, do I just take a picture with my camera, where do I get the app for that?).  Over time, we’ll see less of these issues as both the technology and the users move forward.

In the meantime, consider integrating quick access to your website, mobile apps, and marketing campaigns through a QR code for those on mobile devices, and keep in mind these three tips:

  • Make sure your website is mobile ready if you intend to use a QR code to send visitors to your site.  We offer mobile website design services for those who need assistance.
  • Integrate a unique QR code in a special marketing campaign that goes directly to a mobile ready page for the campaign.
  • If you are putting a QR code on general marketing materials, make sure you and your staff know where it is supposed to go in case there is a technical failure along the path.

Trends Mobile & Web Solutions can help you be where your customers are – on mobile.  We offer website design services including mobile website design, mobile conversions for those who already have a non-mobile website, and native mobile apps for iPhone, Android, tablets, and other mobile devices.  Our goal is to make you look good – really good – and be where your visitors can see you.