More on QR Codes

All the QRage

QR codes, short for “quick response,” are those little square black and white boxes you’re seeing ‘everywhere,’ especially this holiday season, from billboards to brochures, catalogs, to store signage (and even holiday cards, something I did this year. I admit it, it’s super-nerdy). As a consumer, they are meant to quickly extend an experience of a brand, in most cases, satisfying a particular need whether that’s to gain more information or interactive content. It’s accomplished with a simple scan of the QR Code by a mobile smart phone equipped with a QR Code Reader. The scan takes you to content (i.e. video, images, coupons, copy, social media) via an Internet url on your mobile device.

If executed correctly, for a marketer, QR codes represent an opportunity to capture mindshare, drive purchase behavior, generate response and/or further engage a customer. Their ease of use and efficiency make them ideal for small businesses. Here are a few things you need to know to get started or improve your usage of QR codes.

QR Code Generators and QR Code Readers

QR Code Generators: A QR Code Generator is used to create a QR Code. Type in a url and the service will create a QR code that automatically points to that url when scanned with a mobile phone. According to the Social Media Examiner “How QR Codes Can Help Grow Your Business,” there are a number of sites for generating QR codes. Best thing about it is that most of them are free (keep in mind several proprietary QR code generators exist like MS Tag which, for a fee, provide additional services and tracking information). An Internet search for QR code generator will offer many choices.

  • Kaywa, a site created by Datamatrix, which is another pioneer of 2D codes.  You can use it to create QR codes that link to a web page, text, phone numbers, or SMS.
  • Another with even greater capabilities, including customizing the color and format of your codes is Kerem Erkan.

QR code Readers: QR Readers are apps that allow you to scan a QR code with your phone and takes you to the mobile url immediately. The QR code reader app that I like best for my iPhone is i-nigma, which claims to be the most widely used reader in the world.  It accommodates virtually any type of camera phone. There are several others to choose from as well. For the android, you may try Barcode Scanner. Some actually allow you to also scan the UPC codes on packages for best pricing.

Some Practical Uses

QR Codes can be used for a variety of marketing activities. A few more popular ones include informing customers, distributing coupons and offers, to generate valuable feedback, drive purchase behavior (i.e. refer to GoToU Tesco grocery store case study example) and/or support social media activity. The really cool thing about QR codes is that they can be placed anywhere and only require about a ¾” x ¾” real estate. This makes it perfect to place on product packaging, business cards, the sides of your trucks, print ads, point of sale displays, ticket stubs, receipts and even invoices, to name a few.

Remember: Content is (Still) King

The content that QR codes lead a customer to is ultra critical. You don’t want to take customers to an experience, no matter how easy and quick, that is not optimized for mobile, engaging and that the customer will find useful and valuable. Too often QR codes lead users to an irrelevant YouTube video or ad which turns them off. Some content that they will find engaging may include directions, offers/promotions, engaging ‘how-to’ videos, images and more.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your QR Code Efforts

It’s called “Best Practice” and unfortunately (for consumers) not many brand marketers are using it. Good news for you, is do a few things right and you have a chance to gain a leg up on your competition. Here are a few Best Practice tips:

  1. Include a Call to Action with your QR Code informing the customer what to expect. For example, “Scan this QR code and receive 20% discount coupon to lunch at Rays”
  2. Provide the url and/or text keyword/shortcode for mobile users that don’t have a QR reader. Believe it or not 60% of mobile phone users in the US do NOT have smart phones. Why exclude them from your cool mobile marketing experience. Be sure to include the mobile url (or tiny url to conserve space) or text keyword/shortcode (i.e. “Scan the QR Code or Text RUSH to 247365…”) for an inclusive experience.
  3. Include some sort of opt-in data capture in the destination that you take a customer to via the QR Code. By using a free app creation tool like Magmito ( that automatically generates a QR code for you, you can easily and quickly create an app that includes not only a mobile experience for any phone but also a data capture lead generation form. Use a contest, offer or other promotion to entice data entry from your customers.
  4. Be clear with your marketing message. What do you want customers to do AFTER they’ve scanned your QR Code and have completed your mobile experience—Purchase something? Fill out a form? Visit a store? Tell a Friend? Like your Facebook page?
  5. Include a viral component. It’s easy to share content on mobile devices with friends and colleagues. Usually if the experience is cool and engaging enough, you stand a good chance that customer will share it. Make it easy for them to share content with a Tell a Friend function (also included in the magmito tool) or call to action within the app so not to lose out on the low cost opportunity to expose your message to more qualified prospects.
  6. Use Click to Call. Keep in mind if you’re driving customers to an experience on their phone, it’s their phone that they’re using and they may want to call you at the heightened point of engagement (to purchase, get more information, etc.). Be sure to use click to call so in one-click ease a customer can call you at that moment. Consider “Tell us you found out about us via the QR code/mobile campaign and receive an additional (offer),” as an added incentive.

QR Codes are a great way to support your marketing in ways you never imagined would be happening just three years ago. And, it’s fun! However, if you decide to not get in the game now, you can be losing valuable sales to competitors who are. There are several great tools that exist and educational materials to help get you started and on the road to an enhanced customer-brand experience.

About the Author

Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Florida and New York since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over six years. He has been quoted and/or featured in USA Today, Mobile Marketer magazine, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Marketing magazine, BNET TV and Business Currents magazine, to name a few. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom  (abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom)  , visit, call him at 239.963.9396 and follow him on Twitter @angbiasi.

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