QR codes may sound like something you might come across in an Ian Fleming novel or find discussed at the latest tech trend conference, but over the last few years they’ve slipped into the mainstream advertising and marketing worlds in ways that make them a viable small business tool.
First, what are they? Officially, a QR Code (Quick Response) is a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.
Think of it as a little square mark that has the potential to contain all kinds of information about a product, service, company, or person – anything really. The code is read by using a QR scanner program increasingly found on smart phones by default. Some Android phones (ZXing), for example, ship with a QR reader and dozens of iPhone apps, such NEO Reader, exist as free downloads.
Pick up just about any magazine these days and you’ll find advertisers and even editorial staffs using these codes as a way to create greater online engagement with products and stories. The current issue of Esquire magazine features an ad from Brooks Brothers with a QR code that when scanned takes you to an entire online catalog of products.
In countries like Japan QR codes are a mainstay and are used on everything from billboards to menus. (Read about that Big Mac you just ate by scanning QR code on wrapper) In our information now driven world the use of QR codes makes sense, even for the smallest of businesses. On a recent trip to New York I saw stores featuring QR codes in windows. Shoppers could potentially walk by at midnight, see something that had to have, scan the QR code and be taken to a shopping cart to buy the item.
The burgeoning use of mobile devices in the U.S. should move the use of QR technology beyond the cutting edge techies and into the realm of everyday. Use this tool to find a QR Reader for your make of phone.
Small businesses that want to take advantage of this technology can start very small.
Use this tool to create a QR code for your business card. That way when you meet someone they can scan the code and create a contact record in their phone without typing a single thing.
Use this tool to create QR codes for pages with special offers on them. Send post cards to customers with instructions for unlocking the mysterious special. This kind of interaction always improves response
Use this tool to create a series of QR codes for a scavenger hunt that leads people from clue to clue and code to code back to your place of business.
Authors could easily create codes in books or in mailings to entice potential buyers with a code that gives them additional or free content. (Scan this code and find a list of URLs contained my book The Referral Engine.)
Google seems pretty big on this technology and makes it easy for you to create QR codes for you Google Places page. Use this tool to create a code with the Goo.gl URL shortening service.
Imagine QR codes on wine labels. Browse the store and read the tasting notes on any bottle that catches your eye.
There are countless ways you can employ this technology without spending much to do so. This is a great way to take part in a growing trend, position your business as forward thinking, and produce great practical information resources at the same time.