Using QR Codes

By on Jan 27, 2011

At its most basic, a QR Code is a barcode on steroids. QR is the acronym for Quick Response. Originally created by Toyota in Japan in 1994 to track parts in vehicle manufacturing, they are used for encoding information in two-dimensional spaces — like in the pages of magazines, in advertisements, on business cards, and even on TV and websites.

A standard US barcode encodes data in only the horizontal plane (as scanners read the width and distance between the vertical lines). QR codes encode data in 2D (both horizontally and vertically) in a grid of tiny squares. This allows for much more data to be encoded in a smaller space. QR codes can actually embed information in the code itself, and, when read with the proper software, can trigger actions such as launching a website or downloading a file. Additionally, QR codes can be read from any angle, while barcodes must be aligned properly.

QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content on smartphones. I have put a QR code on the back of my business card that allows users to create a new contact record for me without typing anything.

Things to Remember:

If you’re going to use QR codes for agency marketing, you’ll want to keep in mind that QR codes — and the apps that scan them — are still foreign to most people.

Codes can be created that contain different types of information, including contact information and a website address. Google “QR Code Generator” for a list of free sites you can use to create a code.

More and more people are starting to associate the codes with action, but never assume your customers will know what to do. Make it a point to spell out how to scan the QR code, and help instruct customers on where they can grab scanner apps.

Also, remember that QR codes should provide some kind of value to the scanner. It may be easiest to direct QR code scanners to your website, but that’s likely not the most engaging place to send people.

QR codes are bound to become more common in the coming months and years. We’re increasingly reliant on our mobile devices, and typing URLs or other data on tiny keyboards is still not very efficient. These squares of elaborately arranged boxes are a shortcut around that problem, can easily be integrated with various services, and incorporate geo-location data.

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