QR Codes, probably here to stay
These little doohickeys are everywhere.
QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) can store text information for many purposes, mostly commonly perhaps to save a URL, a text message or a phone number. The codes are then scanned and read by cameras on mobile phones and by dedicated barcode readers found in some retail stores and warehouses. A mobile phone user with a QR Code reader app can scan a code and they will instantly be taken to a URL without having to type anything. QR Codes (aka 2-d barcodes) have been around quite a while, they're huge in Japan in fact, and we're starting to see mainstream use in the U.S.
In the advertising and marketing circles QR codes have become particularly useful because they make it easier for brands to engage users. Less typing, less dialing and direct access to detailed information that isn't normally available means users can always be informed with minimal effort.
There are really no rules for the use of QR Codes. The main thing is, if you are using codes for marketing, always consider your audience. They are most definitely going to be mobile, i.e. not on a computer. This means the content you link to should be mobile friendly. If your website doesn't have a mobile version, you'll have to consider if the content will work correctly or even be legible on mobile devices. In many cases, it is appropriate to create specific pages on your website that are designed specifically for QR Code campaigns. A landing page with specific content and a design that fits mobile devices will make it easier for the user and you'll be able to track the campaign separately of your normal website traffic.
Now, like all new things you have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone can use this tool. Not everyone has a smart phone, and not everything will have an app with a QR Code reader. So QR Codes aren't yet as universal as say phone numbers, but there is a growing audience, and if you can provide value in how you use the codes consumers will get on board.
A few QR Code tips
Unless you have a really specific need, don't bother putting these on your website or in your email signature. It's almost always easier to click a link than pull out your phone.
Provide information to consumers trying to make a decision. e.g. For an in-store display, link the user to a product manual or to product reviews.
Reduce printing costs. Instead of printing thousands of customer comment cards, try a permanent table tent that has a QR Code link to a mobile friendly online comment form.
Boost social media activity with links to your Twitter account or Facebook page on ads or in places that you're likely to see people with a phone in-hand, like by the cash register or in a waiting room.
QR Codes work best for specific purposes. Be creative. Think like a mobile user. Look for ways to make lives easier and to move information faster. Have a goal, and don’t be afraid to experiment. There are several free QR Code generators and reader apps out there, a quick search will get you started.