What is a QR code?
QR stands for “quick response”, meaning users can get quick access to web addresses and other information stored within the code. Denso Wave, a supplier to Toyota, invented the technology in 1994 for use in the Japanese automotive industry. A QR code is like a barcode but contains much more information than a standard barcode that you would find on a product. Being square, they also look different as well, with angled markers and additional squares within the body.
There are two types of QR codes, static and dynamic. A static code is fixed, so the data stored in it cannot be changed after the code has been generated. This is good for sharing information that won’t change, such as your business home page or contact details.
A dynamic QR can be changed by redirecting the URL. Instead of storing the content in the quick response code, it is stored in the website URL.
How does a QR code work?
The code can store up to 4,296 characters, making it possible to include web addresses, contact information and more. To start, the person or organisation that wants to share information generates the code (we’ll look at how to get a QR code for your business later). The person receiving the information scans the quick response code with a reader, usually a smartphone or tablet. Once the code has been read, the website, video, contact details, sign-up form or other information appears on the device. A simple example is getting a QR code for a business card and using it as a way to connect by linking to a website or social media profile.
Ways to use quick response codes in your business
Here are a few of many ways to use QR codes for your business.
- Connect customers to your website from a business card, brochure, poster or billboard. This makes it easy for people to get more information about your business or promotion.
- Offer a discount through a direct mail piece. By linking to a special web page, you will also be able to track how effective your campaign has been. You can test different versions of your direct mail piece by creating custom pages and QR codes for these.
- Deliver product instructions. If you sell a product that requires instructions, including a QR code on it makes it easy for users to access the information needed by scanning the code. It could also be used to register the product for updates and warranties.
- Share a digital menu for a cafe or restaurant by including a QR code on postcards, posters and other marketing material.
- Direct people to download your app. Whether using the Apple app store or Google Play, customers can download your app using their mobile devices.
- Connect people to your social media profiles. Using a QR code linked to your social media pages will help you grow your followers.
- Share information and stories on product packaging. For example, a business that produces eco-friendly clothing can explain how its product materials and methods lessen environmental impact. A wine producer can use a QR code to share information about the vintage and suggestions for food matching.
- Create in-store promotions using QR codes on posters and shelf cards.
Use QR codes to connect with augmented reality (AR) experiences. If you’re not familiar with how this works, here are a few examples of AR in action.
One of the advantages of using quick response codes is that you can track the traffic it generates, so you can see what has worked with your bar codes and change your approach when things don’t work.
How to create QR codes for your business
Select a QR code generator
You can use one of the many QR code generators online that don’t require technical knowledge. Here are a few of the top-rated ones:
- Beaconstac QR Code solution
- QR Code Monkey
- Shopify’s QR Code generator
- QR Stuff
With many solutions, you’re no longer limited to a black and white quick response code. You can include colours to match your brand and include your logo.
Choose your content
This will depend on your goals. It could be to provide information after the customer has purchased your product, as part of a marketing campaign, and many other ways. Whatever you do, make it easy for customers to scan the code from a smartphone or tablet. The code should be large enough to scan from the distance people will be using it. For a poster on a wall, it will need to be larger than on a product that is scanned from a close distance.
Track campaigns to determine their effectiveness
Some online QR generators offer tracking for a fee. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics to track campaigns that use your unique codes.
If you don’t have a Google Analytics account, sign up for a free one for your website. Use the Campaign URL Builder tool in Analytics to create custom URLs with trackable parameters. Create a QR code using this custom URL (using one of the online generators).
Once your campaign is active, you can see how many people are using the code and what they are doing when visiting your site. By creating unique URLs for different versions of your campaign material, you can determine what has been most effective for getting scans and results.