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QR Codes - What are they and how should you use them?

Matthew Hall Gold Shards No Crop

Posted by Matthew Hall

12th June 2012

QR (Quick Response) codes are the barcodes that you will have most likely seen in magazines, business cards, leaflets and on the corner of advertisements. QR Codes can be used to link the offline and digital worlds together in novel and useful ways, and are used by tech-savvy businesses in a variety of ways. By scanning the code with a mobile phone, a variety of functions can be performed such as:

  • Visiting a web page
  • Displaying text
  • Composing a text message
  • Making a phone call
  • Importing calendar or contacts
  • Composing an e-mail message
  • Showing a location on a map
  • Installing an App
  • Watching a video
  • Connecting to a WiFi network
  • Performing an action on Facebook/Twitter (e.g. “Like” or “Follow”)

Recent statistics have shown that QR Code scans increased 300% in 2011 from 2010 (ScanLife) and QR Code usage jumped 617% from January to December 2011 in the top 100 magazines (Nellymoser). If used properly, QR Codes can become invaluable marketing tools. Poor usage of QR Codes can alienate potential customers, and fail to deliver measurable results. So here are our tips on how to use QR Codes effectively to promote your business:

Carefully plan your campaign

Make sure that a QR Code is appropriate and adds value to your campaign before using one. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon! Think about how you can use QR Codes cleverly as part of a campaign linking offline with digital.

Make it clear what will happen before they scan

Everyone wants to know where they are going.

Use a mobile optimised website

QR Codes are scanned using smart phones. It’s a far better experience to land on a web page that’s been optimised for touch input, tiny screens and reduced download speeds.

Don’t just link to your home page

Don’t simply send people to your home page, when you could create a more relevant page.

Make it easy to scan your QR Code

There is a wide combination of phones and Apps available to scan these codes. They don’t all work as well as each other, so it’s important to follow some basic rules to get the best compatibility:

  • Avoid inverting or altering standard colours (black on white). Although some readers can cope with custom colours, others can’t.
  • As a rule of thumb, make sure your code is at least 2cm square. This does depend on the amount of data encoded though – if you’re adding a web link, use a URL shortener to reduce the number of characters that need to be embedded. The more data to encode, the larger the physical size has to be for easy scanning.
  • Make sure people are physically able, or will have enough time to scan. Putting your QR Codes at the top of a poster on a tall building isn’t a great idea unless you’re making the code very large. Similarly, placing codes on motorway billboards isn’t a good strategy -unless it’s prone to traffic jams!

Test it

Possibly obvious to some; but test your codes using as many different smart phones as you can lay your hands on.

Track it

Make use of tracking systems within your codes so you can measure how well your efforts paid off. Any good agency will provide this as standard and show you how to view the statistics.

Want to use QR Codes effectively for your business? Get in touch today and we'll help you get started.