An Introduction to QR Codes

Have you ever seen one of these before?QR

This is what is called a “Quick Response Code”, aka QR Code. (There Microsoft* also produces it’s own version called an MS Tag Code) You may see them in airports, in magazines, at events or even as your mobile boarding pass.

QR Codes are an experience that is only available to smartphone users. You must download a barcode scanner application (there are many available for iOS, Android and Blackberry), open the app, aim your camera at the code and then start scanning away. The QR Code can deliver a wide variety of content, like a webpage, rich media, a downloadable file, a Phone Number or an SMS. Undeniably, mobile is becoming a critical part of our daily lives and brands are beginning to leverage QR code technology to connect with their customers while on the go.

Back in March Google officially decided to end support for the use of QR codes, the 2D barcodes readable by camera-equipped mobile phones, in its business listings service Google Places. But, according to Scanbuy's latest trend report, QR Codes are now being scanned more than 1D barcodes for the first times since the second quarter of 2010.

Here are a few examples of what various entities have been doing.

NYC Building Permits
The city that never sleeps is tapping into how tech savvy their population is by adding QR Codes to all NYC Building Permits by 2013. By scanning the QR Codes, NYC residents will be able to access information about the project directly from their mobile, as well as read complaints or violations. Through a simple click, they can easily make complaints of their own. (link)

Learning More About Your Wine
For those just starting to delve into the complexities of wine, the landscape can be a scary place. One company Cellar Key is trying to simplify that for the more tech inclined by including QR Code tags on their wine bottles, so customers can scan the code and get more information about the wine they are looking at purchasing, including videos & food pairings. (link)

Prevent Climbing Injuries
Little Giant Ladder Systems now includes QR codes on product packaging and ladder labels so consumers can easily view safety, instructional and product demo videos in-store or in the comfort of their home. (link)

Here are five things to consider doing before you begin using QR codes to promote your business.

Commit to mobile. The results of a study done on Fortune 50 companies, entitled "The Fortune 50 Use of Mobile," showed that while 62% are reaching out to stakeholders with some form of mobile communications (mobile-optimized websites, mobile applications, SMS/text messaging, or QR codes), only 39% of these companies are highlighting their mobile offerings or optimizing their corporate website for a mobile browser.

Remember it’s a mobile experience. Think about the devices and operating systems your customers are using, as well as the location where they will encounter, the QR code. QR codes give you the ability to target the right information to your audience at the right place and time.

Think about what’s ‘behind the code’. Since QR codes offer so many opportunities to engage with your customers, think carefully about what they may discover by scanning codes. You’ll want them to continue to scan the codes when they see them on subsequent occasions. Consider the place and context for the code, the content you attach to it, and the customer’s mindset when they access it.

Convert shoppers to customers. In the example above, Cellar Key is giving the customer the information they need to make a buying decision while the product is in hand. They mitigate the “I’ll have to remember to get that” moment that can come with reading reviews online from home. Or provide an instant coupon to reward your browsers for scanning your code.

Optimize all of your digital content for mobile users. If your customers are going to use their phones to scan your code, make sure after you've trained them to do so they can continue to stay connected with your brand through their mobile device.

Want to learn more about QR Codes? Mashable has become the go to source for information about how brands are utilizing QR codes (or other 2D codes, like the MS Tag Code). Stay up to date on the latest by following their QR Code tag.

BONUS: Curious about how it all started with QR Codes? Check out this great infographic from JumpScan (they help you create your very own QR Code). Blogroll references. Clickz Search Engine Watch BizReport ReadWriteWeb eMarketer GigaOm * Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of R2i.

About the Author: Lynn Morton

Lynn Morton

As Strategy Director, Lynn has a passion for strategic thinking and problem solving. She helps clients tackle their biggest challenges and make moments of connection with their target audiences. Originally a theatre maker, she brings that talent for storytelling to each of her clients, asking them – what story do we need to tell to make an impact?

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