What are QR codes – and do you need one?

110413-qrcodesYou’ve probably seen the funny boxes on business cards, packaging, and magazine advertisements. Made of a pattern of (usually) black and white boxes, QR codes are one of the ways marketers are trying to get you to pick up your smartphone and click. Does your small business need a QR code? Read on to learn more about these little web tools and the pros and cons of this new technology.

QR code stands for “quick response code.” They were developed in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary to track automobiles and auto parts as they moved through the manufacturing process. The advantage to a QR code over a traditional barcode is that they can hold more information about the item they’re attached to, allowing a user to learn a lot about the auto part with one little click.

Naturally, marketers saw the potential in this little code. Though most businesses use it to connect customers and potential customers to their website, there are a ton of other, richer uses for them:

  • Product details
  • Content details
  • Coupons and special offers
  • Event details
  • Links to your page on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter
  • Link to a YouTube video
  • Instructions
  • Feedback form
  • Directions to your business
  • Link to your website or blog

Getting a QR code doesn’t have to cost you anything, and some code generators will even let you change the colors of your code or modify where it takes the user (often for a fee). On the user end, all they need is a QR code reader or scanner on their smartphone, most of which are free.

The advantage of a QR code is that it can take a user to your content in one or two simple clicks – open the app on their phone and click to scan – rather than typing the URL for your website or other content into the browser of their device. And, you can place this little code nearly anywhere:

  • Business cards
  • Brochures and marketing materials
  • Print advertising
  • T-shirts
  • Signs and banners
  • Trucks and trailers
  • Tags and packaging
  • Nametags
  • Menus
  • Ticket stubs
  • Receipts

There are disadvantages to a QR code, though, mostly that they haven’t taken off as expected. For so many users, the experience is a disappointment. They click this cool code … and all they get is your website.  What a letdown! As a result, many users don’t bother clicking on them anymore. Their expectations have been lowered.

Also, smartphone companies have yet add a native code reading app onto their phones. Users have to actively look for and download an app to read your code, something not everyone has done.

If you’ve got clever and creative content to share, a QR code might be right for you. Be sure to let users know what they’re going to get when they click on your code. If you promise them something big, make sure you’re delivering!

Ready to make a code, but have questions? Do you need help with your mobile technology? Contact us today!

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