Who would have thought that a coding tool developed by a company in the automotive industry in the 90s would reach far beyond the bounds of the car business?
It seems that good tech doesn’t go out of style – it only becomes more versatile. Such is the case of the QR code. Its advanced functionality (in comparison to its predecessor, the bar code) makes the QR code a powerful marketing tool and gateway to information.
QR codes are an invitation for businesses to get creative about how they interact with their users and stand out. Are you ready to become an expert? Delve into our QR code 101 below.
What is a QR code?
While most of us likely have had some experience using QR codes, that doesn’t mean we know exactly what they are. This is just a testament to how functional these codes are: A user doesn’t have to know what they are or how they work to enjoy the quickly-won benefits of using them.
And, “quick” is the operative word when it comes to QR codes. The word is right in this tool’s name. QR stands for “quick response”. These codes allow users to pull up information in seconds, like a restaurant menu or a landing page with more information on a product or service. They’re made of pixelated white and black squares that your phone camera can read as a link (or source for other information).
Perhaps the best descriptor for QR code, though, is “efficient.” “Quick” doesn’t go far enough, because QR codes are also complex. While we may associate these codes with menus and marketing, QRs can allow users to authenticate accounts, access Wi-Fi, and even make payments.
Static vs. dynamic QR codes
It’s time to get technical. Even if you’re not a developer, knowing the difference between static and dynamic codes can help you decide what type of QR code you may need for your business. (At the very least, this knowledge is a flashy piece of trivia.)
Static QR codes
A static code contains information that remains permanent, can’t be edited, and can’t track usage. But the term “static” doesn’t imply that this QR format is limited in its reach. In fact, static QR codes store complex information like URLs, events, bitcoin wallet addresses, and Wi-Fi access information.
Dynamic QR codes
Dynamic codes are flexible because they’re editable and can track usage. Don’t let the word “dynamic” confuse you into thinking that these codes have multiple functionalities. The only target data that dynamic codes store are URLs. Dynamic QR codes are better for campaigns that need to be altered or rely on analytics.
How do QR codes work?
QR codes aren’t your standard barcodes. The lined barcodes on clothing tags and the back of books, for example, only store alphanumeric characters and must be read from top to bottom. QR codes, however, are more dimensional—literally and in practice. QRs, which are 2-D barcodes, can be read from side to side and top to bottom, which is why these codes can do more than tell you what an item costs and perform advanced tasks like authentication.
The above may explain how a QR works on a technical level, but how can you make a QR code work for you? Smartphone camera apps scan QR codes, and your mobile device then transports you to the information embedded in the code, usually a website.
All smartphones work differently, so users will have to learn the unique process of using their phone’s camera to scan these codes. Some users may need to download easy-to-use, third-party QR code reader applications, which are widely available in the Android and iPhone app stores.
How do you create a QR code?
If you’re on the business end of needing a QR code, then your first question will likely be how you can create one. The short answer: easily.
Nowadays, there are plenty of widely-available QR code generators online. A simple browser search will bring up several options that a business owner can use to create a code.
But, like any search that brings up a wealth of responses, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you need. When it comes time to create a QR code for your business, consider what you need it to do and include this target function in your search.
QR code benefits for businesses
Where there’s a tool that can make users’ lives easier, businesses need to know about it. And QR codes don’t only get users to your content faster: they provide unique opportunities for marketing and even sustainability.
Reducing environmental waste
Paper marketing, and recently, paper menus are becoming a thing of the past. QR codes allow users to access digital information normally stored in less ecologically-friendly formats like flyers, business cards, and pamphlets.
Providing accessibility options
You can make your brand’s services more agile by using QR codes to speed up processes like contactless payment or cater to users’ needs by offering information in different languages and fonts (for increased legibility). You can also offer contact information, like phone numbers or email addresses, if people have more questions.
QR codes are also part of “minimally-invasive” marketing plans. Interested viewers can take in the information stored on the other end of the code in their own time and way. This prevents users from becoming overwhelmed. If you include, for example, a QR code on your product packaging, customers can choose when and if to learn more instead of taking in a busy chunk of text when interacting with your goods.
Expanding business marketing
QR codes allow you to market creatively because they’re a portal to more information. While the user may only interact with a code for a few seconds as they snap a photo of it, they can then spend however long they wish with the target information, whether this is your webpage, information on an event or promotion, or other marketing content.
Quick response codes allow businesses to pique a viewer’s interest through a creative call-to-action (CTA). For example, you can hint at a sale you’re running and only provide information on the details once users use the QR code to click a link for your web address.
How influencers use QR codes
If your business is partnering with an influencer or you’re trying to become one yourself, QR codes might be your best friend.
Like in business marketing, influencers use QR codes to promote products, share coupon codes, and call their viewers to action. Whether you’d like to drive traffic to the page of a new product or generate interest for an event using influencer marketing, you can direct social media users to more information using QR codes in posts and emails.
Are QR codes safe?
QR codes don’t contain target information. They direct users to it. QR codes don’t actually house data that could harm a user’s device.
And QR codes give viewers a sense of agency. If users don’t wish to click through to the information on the other end of the link because they feel it could be dangerous or otherwise unwanted, they can-opt out before doing so.
What about data tracking? Whenever users hear about data being stored, their guards may go up. That’s completely understandable. But QR codes don’t hang on to personal information. The only type of data they can track is the scans themselves. This information includes how many times a code is scanned, what types of operating systems scanned it, and at what time.