What is a QR Code?
A QR (Quick Response) Code is a two-dimensional barcode that can be read by QR Code equipped scanners including an increasing number of smartphones. Used extensively for tracking vehicle parts in manufacturing, QR Codes are now also being used for promotional purposes aimed at mobile phone users.
Over 7000 characters can be stored in a single QR Code, or a single code can broken down into 16 smaller codes. They can be scanned from any angle and over large distances, depending on the size. They also incorporate error correction that can restore up to 30% of lost data, making them very reliable. See the Calvin Klein example below, which scanned correctly on our mobile phone despite the fact that the QR Code in the photo is obscured by a lamp post.
Scanning a QR Code from a suitable smartphone involves opening the appropriate scanning application and holding the phone to the QR Code as if about to take its photograph. The code will be read and the contents displayed. The more advanced scanning software will automatically open any related application to handle the revealed information. For example, if the QR Code contained a website link, the browser software will open and the relevant web page loaded; if the QR Code contained a vCard of contact details, they will be added to the mobile phones contacts list.
- Website URL – send people straight to your homepage, or perhaps creating a special landing page on your site with a promotional offer to reward their efforts and encourage sharing
- Contact Information – embed the QR Code with your complete vCard containing all your contact information
- Geo Location – help potential customers to find your business premises or events by embedding Geo-location co-ordinates
- Calendar Event – advertise your event and allow the reader to insert it straight into their calendar
- Business Cards – imagine how many more people would save the information on your business card if it incorporated an easy to scan bar code
- Promotional Materials – posters, adverts and flyers could display a small QR Code to lead customers directly to your chosen product, service or special offer
- Vehicle Sign Writing – an additional QR Code containing contact info could dramatically improve enquiries from passers by
- Events – scan your visitors QR code enhanced ticket to log their arrival, then hand them a name badge which displays their contact details in a QR Code for other visitors to scan directly into their phones
- Inside premises – if you offer Wifi, store the details in a QR Code and advertise within your premises
- Outside premises – why not have a QR Code next to your opening hours sign that leads customers to your online shop when your premises are closed. Google are already sending out QR Code Window Decals to top businesses in the US, designed to link customers to that businesses Google Places page.
Not all mobile phones have QR Code scanning software built in, although it is available to all Android powered devices. There are third party applications that add this functionality to a wide range of other mobile phones. Start your search at QRME.co.uk for a list of barcode scanners and supported handsets, or type ‘QR Reader’ and the model of your phone into Google.
Although widely adopted in parts of Asia, and gathering popularity in the US, this technology is still quite new in the UK and your customers may not have heard of QR Codes….yet. This will put you ahead of the curve, so be prepared to educate your customers.
Find out more
Google host a number of free open-source tools for creating and decoding QR Codes under a project called ZXing (Pronounced ‘Zebra Crossing’).
Microsoft Tag, PDF417, Maxi Code