If you've seen a multitude of those quirky black and white boxes that look like a cross between a bar code and a Rorschach test, you are not alone. They've popped up on everything from plant containers to pet food. Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot have all embraced QR codes as a way to connect real world goods and services with virtual information (e.g. additional product info, discounts, contests, Facebook pages, YouTube videos, etc.)
How is that possible? By scanning the QR code with a web enabled smart phone, the user can be directed to a mobile web page -- one that displays more content about the product or service.
How are QR codes being used?
Business professionals are using them as digital business cards, printing them on the back of existing cards for easy scanning. The advantage? The information can always be updated and you only need one card in your pocket to scan. Employers can link a QR code to an online job application. Real estate companies can place them on for sale signs, which then link to video, pricing and contact information. A mobile consumer can scan a code and take a virtual tour of a home, see the price, and call the agent. Business owners can place a QR code in the corner of an ad, and extend their marketing message to any customer carrying a smart phone. Restaurant owners can display their hours, menu and/or a daily special.
How do they work?
QR codes (short for Quick Response) first gained popularity in Japan where Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave created them for tracking purposes in vehicle manufacturing. The two dimensional codes proved extremely useful, since they can hold between 4K - 7K worth of characters. The codes can be read by any number of QR scanning apps, available on your smart phone's app store, usually at no charge. Popular QR generators, like JumpScan.com, provide an easy, web based platform for creating pre-optimized , custom web pages.
Once you've created your code, you can print it out on a way variety on media, from posters and table tents, to print ads and yellow page listings. In addition, some QR generators provide analytics to see how many times the codes were scanned.
What's the best strategy?
The key to an effective QR code campaign is to reward your mobile customer for scanning the code. Don't just link it blindly to your home page (which will probably only display a portion of your site.) Instead, be sure to create a mobile optimized landing page with a call to action, a discount code, a contest, a reason to take further action. The principles of mobile marketing are the same as traditional marketing, the consumer wants to know "What's in it for me?" So be sure to reward him or her for taking time to want to know more about your company, product or service.
With the right strategy, QR codes can provide a valuable tool in reaching the increasing difficult to reach mobile consumer. It provides a means to connect to your audience in real time with relevant information. With smart phone usage predicted to reach 50% this year, this trend towards mobile marketing will only strengthen with time. Establish your game plan now and create a bridge that spans your online and offline efforts.