Quick response codes (QR codes) seem to be everywhere. In fact, according to JumpScan, QR code scanning increased 1,200 percent from July to December 2010, with 57 percent of Twitter and Facebook users reporting they scanned at least one QR code in the past year.
It's no wonder, then, that these two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes, which can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information, offer you immediate access to what's relevant.
A quick scan using your iPhone, Android, or other camera-enabled smartphone activates your phone functions such as e-mail, IM, and SMS, or connects the mobile device to a Web browser.
You might have used a QR code to check in for your flight on United, pay for your Starbucks coffee, locate a business on Google Maps, or get more information at a library or retail store.
But how can QR codes help your business? They are perfect for an opportunity you have to connect people using their mobile phones with digital content. Include a quick sign-up page for opt-in e-mail on each landing page and encourage visitors to sign up to receive e-mail updates.
Getting started with QR codes is easy. Your first step is to identify the specific content you want to link to and to create a code using a QR code generator.
A number of sites (all free) will help you generate QR codes. A quick Google search will bring you to a site like Kaywa. You can use it to create QR codes that link to a Web page, text, phone numbers, or SMS. Kerem Erkan's generator site will allow you to add some color to your QR codes.
I used Erkan's site to generate this QR code with a St. Patrick's Day theme:
The next step is to recommend a QR code reader to your readers. I-nigma is a popular choice, because it claims to be the most widely used reader in the world, supporting virtually any type of camera phone.
Other good choices for the iPhone include QR Reader for iPhone, QR Scanner, and TapReader. Android users can try the highly rated QuickMark or ScanLife barcode scanners. BlackBerry users seem to like NeoReader or UpCode.
QR Codes Application
Now you need to determine the most effective content as landing pages for your QR codes. Below are a few of the most popular uses:
Calls to Action
The most obvious use for a QR code is as a call to action. QR codes could link to these information sources:
Sharing is another excellent application for QR codes. There is no limit to how you can share with QR codes. Generate QR codes that make it easy for your audience to share offline content such as special event information, trade show booth location, books, or magazine articles with their social networks.
When your mobile users scan your code, they will be prompted to share content you suggest on their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.
QR codes can help build your social community offline. One application is to create a QR code that allows your audience to "like" or recommend your Facebook page from their mobile devices.
QR codes also can be used to offer social proof of your brand's authority and expertise on relevant topics. Create QR codes that link to user-generated reviews of your product or blog posts. These help you build credibility with your prospects and leave them wanting more.
The final step is to determine where to place your QR codes so that they will effectively reach your target audience. QR codes can be effective in any medium that doesn't easily connect to the Web or allow for sign-up for opt-in e-mail. Also, consider any location when your target has some free time, such as these:
The Last Word
QR codes are quickly becoming one of the fastest, easiest, and lowest-cost ways to link your offline advertising with your online community and content. The use of these codes will continue to grow as more top brands such as Ford, Pepsi, Starbucks, and Best Buy incorporate them into more and more of their marketing efforts.
Effectively using QR codes in your offline marketing will allow you to leverage your investment in offline media to build your online reach. When you succeed at this, you will realize the increased reach through growing your e-mail list, deepening your engagement with your community, and boosting customer and prospect satisfaction with your brand and products.
Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.
June 20, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT