Getting Started with QR Codes for Mobile Marketing

QR codes are extremely popular in Japan where they were first created by Denso-Wave in 1994.  With the increased usage of smartphones in the U.S., American businesses are quickly adopting the use of QR codes to promote coupons, sales pages, contact information, and more.

What is a QR code?
A Quick Response (QR) code is a two-dimensional barcode that can be scanned by the camera in a smartphone to automatically pull up information. Depending on how the code is set-up, it can direct the smartphone user to a website, portfolio, Facebook page, Twitter account, blog, resume, or a number of other creative landing pages.

How do I use QR codes for marketing?
QR codes are a mobile-friendly way to point people in the offline space to online resources. Their usage can range from getting “likes” in social media to increasing e-commerce sales to spreading news.  For example, the NYC Department of Sanitation is using a QR code campaign to encourage recycling in the community.
Really, the uses are endless. The important concept to bear in mind is that QR codes should provide value to the person scanning.  Before incorporating QR codes into your marketing plan, think about where you are sending people and what action you want them to take when they get there.  Here are some of the most common ways businesses are using QR codes.
  • To relay contact information.  Place a QR code on your business card or email signature to direct people to a website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, or blog where they can learn more about you and your business.
  • To promote a service.  Add a QR code to traditional marketing materials, like brochures or billboards.  Generate the code to direct people to a specific landing page that promotes a new service or product.
  • To encourage interaction. Use QR codes in a store or on your website to encourage people to sign up for discounts or coupons.  Set up the code so anyone who scans it will receive valuable information they can use, and may even share with others.
  • To create brand loyalty.  Place a QR code in a visible place and invite people to make comments, add videos, share stories, or check in to Foursquare when they scan it.
What are the challenges?
QR codes are not considered mainstream yet.  Being an early adopter of QR codes limits your reach to people who understand what the codes are used for, and to those that have smartphones with a QR reader installed. According to the Nielsen Company, less than 30% of U.S. mobile subscribers own smartphones.
On the other hand, setting up a campaign with a QR code can be a quick and affordable way of encouraging people to take action.  It also has a “cool” factor associated with it, which might be a boost to your brand.

How do I generate a QR Code?
Generating a QR code is fairly simple and inexpensive.  In fact, many QR code generator websites are free.  Here are a few resources to get you started:
  • Kaywa - a very simple QR code generator that lets you direct people to a URL, text, phone number or SMS.
  • iCandy -  a more robust tool that includes tracking and analytics.
  • QR Stuff - a high resolution QR code generator that includes options for printable formats and graphics.
Have you used QR codes in a marketing campaign?  Do you think they are valuable marketing tool or do you consider them hype?


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