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The Marketing Edge - The skinny on QR codes

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The skinny on QR codes: What are they? How are they used?

You have probably seen them everywhere for a while now: Those odd little square barcode-like graphics that have been popping up in magazine ads, on product packaging, and just about anywhere else you can fit a graphic the size of a postage stamp. You've also probably seen some people scanning these images on their mobile phones. But what are they?

A QR code (short for quick response code) is a two-dimensional matrix capable of storing up to 4,296 alphanumeric or 7,089 numeric characters of information. Although you may not have noticed them until recently, QR codes are not really new - they were created by Toyota in 1994 in Japan to allow for speedier manufacturing processes. In the past few years, the rise of smart phones in the United States has led to a more widespread and varied adoption of the codes for other purposes.

MarketingProfs recently released data showing that "52 percent of mobile users have seen or heard of QR codes; of those, 28 percent have scanned one. iPhone users scan by far the most, at 68 percent (versus 26 percent of Android users and 4 percent of Blackberry users). Companies like Starbucks are already using QR codes (as well as barcodes) to enable users to pay for their purchases via mobile." This data shows that although the codes have not yet achieved broad market penetration, they are steadily entering the vocabulary of mobile users. The more familiar users become with QR codes, the more secure companies will feel in including them in their marketing materials (after all, wasting valuable space on something that few people make use of is rarely good practice).

How does a QR code work?

Most smart phones nowadays come with a QR code reader already installed out-of-the-box. Whenever a mobile user sees one of the codes, they can access whatever content it points to in literally a few seconds; all you have to do is turn on your camera, scan the code, and wait for the result. This immediate gratification is why QR codes are quickly becoming popular among marketers: Why force your target audience to write down or remember your website's URL when you can direct them there immediately, as quickly as they can press a button?

What exactly can your business do with a QR code?

Your business can incorporate QR codes into your marketing campaign in a number of ways. Any time you design a promotional piece (such as a postcard, rack card or poster), leave a space for your new friend. You can use it to direct potential customers to your website, display a "virtual business card" with contact information and more, or convey information about your products and services - be creative! Spread the joy, and use your QR code to direct users to some of these strategic marketing spots to generate buzz, brand awareness and sales:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Product coupons and exclusive deals
  • Product details
  • YouTube videos or testimonials
  • Your company's website
  • Electronic Business Cards

QR codes may be a relatively new addition to the web scene, but if current trends are any indication, they are here to stay. It's important that we as business owners (and marketers) embrace change and search for ways to improve our campaigns to make better use of the new benefits such technologies offer. Fully-functional mobile computing itself was a foreign concept when Personal Digital Assistants (such as the Palm Pilot) first became popular in the mid-90s - but look at how much a part of our lives it has become now, only 15 years later.

Cíntia Miranda is the president of Pulse Marketing Agency. Learn more about her work at www.pulsemarketingagency.com.

Last modified on Friday, 01 June 2012 16:08

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