Quick Response (QR) codes are virtually everywhere nowadays. Take a stroll through your neighborhood, and you’ll see QR codes on everything from movie posters to real estate signs. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your home to encounter QR codes; you’ll find them in email messages, business websites, and social media platforms.
The proliferation of QR codes is attributed to their effectiveness. They can be used for various purposes, such as facilitating contactless payments, content sharing, event registrations, and, most importantly, marketing to potential customers.
QR codes prove to be effective in grabbing attention and prompting people to take action. Moreover, they provide companies with a wealth of data to help improve their digital marketing strategy.
Keep reading to learn more about QR codes: how they work, the benefits of using QR codes for marketing, and how you can successfully integrate them into your digital marketing strategy.
Firstly: What Is a QR Code?
A Quick Response (QR) code is a two-dimensional barcode that stores more information than traditional barcodes. It can be scanned quickly, even from different angles, without the need for special equipment. To scan a QR code, all you need is your mobile device.
You can embed over 4000 characters of text, along with phone numbers and URLs for websites, in QR codes. Other types of information that can be stored in QR codes include:
- vCard files
- Geographic locations
- Calendar data
- Contact information
- Email addresses
There are many creative uses for QR codes, from assisting in reviews to capturing potential customers. This is particularly true now, as technological advancements and changes in consumer behavior make QR technology widely adoptable.
Thinking Outside the Box: Creative Uses of QR Codes in Marketing
Creating QR codes and inserting them into advertisements is easy. However, a more creative approach can help you not only get more scans but also elevate your entire digital marketing strategy.
Major brands like L’Oréal, which placed QR codes in taxis for stuck commuters to scan, and Burger King, which offered 10,000 burgers as part of a QR code promotion, are just two examples of how creativity can yield results. However, not all companies have the resources to market QR codes on such a wide scale.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that small and medium-sized businesses can’t benefit as well. Here are some creative and practical ways to maximize the use of QR codes in marketing:
- Include QR codes on product packaging to provide customers with useful details about their purchase.
- Add QR codes to print advertisements to connect your traditional and digital marketing efforts.
- Create QR codes that lead customers to a page where they can leave a review.
- Direct scans to exclusive Augmented Reality (AR) content.
- Place digital QR codes in online emails and newsletters.
- Encourage scan engagement through special offers or exclusive deals.
- Use QR codes to guide customers to download mobile app offerings.
- Give customers a preview of new services, products, or content.
- Use scans to lead to your LinkedIn page, company portfolio, or official website.
- Use QR codes to facilitate registration for seminars, workshops, or other events.
But wait – do people still use QR codes?
The short answer is yes. However, to understand the reason for the resurgence of QR codes and making them more relevant than ever, it’s essential to comprehend why they weren’t favored in the first place.
QR codes were invented in the 1990s by a Japanese company called Denso Wave. However, they didn’t gain traction in the United States until several years later.
In 2010, major retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, and Target utilized QR codes for business, specifically in campaigns to provide value to customers and enhance their engagement. Simultaneously, restaurants, stores, and other companies encouraged “check-ins” on Foursquare by posting QR codes on windows and near cash registers.
However, while QR codes were used and continued to be utilized in the background, such as in storage and logistics services, they did not gain clear popularity among consumers. This could be attributed to several factors.
Firstly, most people didn’t know what they were (97 percent of American consumers, according to a 2012 study by INC).
Secondly, smartphones at that time didn’t come equipped with built-in QR code readers, and few people wanted to deal with the hassle of downloading an external QR code reader. Visiting the company’s website or social media for information was faster and didn’t require any extra steps.
As a result, both technology experts and marketers pronounced a death sentence on QR codes, at least for marketing purposes. It turned out they did so quite prematurely.
There’s Still Life in This Old Technology
Some skeptics claim that technology dies. However, the numbers don’t lie: more people are scanning QR codes now compared to just a few years ago.
According to Statista, 52.6 million smartphone users in the United States scanned QR codes on their mobile devices in 2019, while 75.8 million did the same in 2021. This number is expected to rise to 99.5 million in 2025.
Here are some reasons:
Social Media and QR: A Marketing Match Made in Heaven
Over four billion people worldwide use social media. So, it’s not surprising that when a social media platform introduces a new feature that makes content sharing and access easier and more fun, users rush to try it out.
In 2015, Snapchat introduced “Snapcodes,” a feature that allowed users to customize QR codes and share them for adding friends. These QR codes also unlocked features like new filters, leading to a rapid and widespread adoption among Snapchat users.
On the marketing side, brands and marketers can use Snapcodes to deliver branded content, offers, filters, and more. Using Snapcodes became easy as the app doubled as a QR code reader for its users.
Other social media platforms followed suit. In fact, in 2018, Instagram introduced a similar feature, “Nametag,” which was a unique QR code for a specific profile.
Nametags can be scanned through the Instagram app. Then, in 2020, Instagram replaced the feature with QR codes that can be scanned and shared even outside the app.
The result is that more people now know how QR codes work. It’s no longer an unfamiliar technology with few practical applications. Besides knowing how QR codes work, consumers today are also eager to consume content delivered through this method.
Better Technology, Easier Access
In the early 2000s and the first part of the 21st century, people had to download external QR code reader devices to scan QR codes. Not anymore.
Most modern Android phones come with built-in QR code readers in their cameras. The same goes for Apple devices. Even if a user’s phone doesn’t have a native scanner, the likelihood is that Google Lens, which can scan QR codes, has been pre-installed on it.
In the end, finding a QR code generator for businesses online is easy. You might need to pay for access to more advanced features like analytics, but generally, using a business QR code generator to create QR codes is free. This makes the benefits of QR codes accessible even to small businesses and startups.
Touchless is the Key
The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the importance of touchless solutions for both B2C and B2B. Suddenly, restaurants started using QR codes instead of paper menus handed from person to person. Gas stations began accepting payments that support QR codes, and governments provided public safety information through QR codes on stickers, with healthcare providers using them to direct customers or patients to online symptom check tests.
Benefits of QR Codes for Businesses
Now that the general public knows how QR codes work, they’ve become cool on social media again, and scanning them has become easier than ever, they are here to stay. But what are the benefits of QR codes, and why should you start using QR codes for marketing?
There are two types of QR codes: static and dynamic. Static QR codes are generally not used for marketing purposes because they cannot be tracked. However, dynamic QR codes – the type used in marketing – can be tracked, making it easy to measure the success of your QR code campaign.
A business QR code generator allows users to create custom dynamic QR codes. Many paid applications also enable tracking and measuring the data obtained through scan operations. Using a business QR code reader, you can get analytics for:
- Total scan count: This indicates the number of times the QR code has been scanned, including repeated scans from the same device or user.
- Unique scan count: This shows the number of scans received from different users/devices.
- Device operating system: It lets you know the type of device used by scanners. For example, if your analytics show that most scanners use iOS, it means they are using iPhones or iPads to scan your QR codes.
- Location: This helps you know the city and country of the people who scanned your QR codes.
All this information is useful for understanding customer behavior, which, in turn, can inform your targeting and marketing approach. It allows you to determine whether your approach is effective or if you need to make changes to achieve your marketing goals.
However, remember that your business’s QR code generator and other methods used to collect data via QR codes should comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Companies in need of assistance in tracking, measuring, and interpreting QR code analytics can access experienced digital marketing consultants. These professionals have the expertise and tools needed to set key performance indicators (KPIs) for your QR code digital marketing strategy and convert cold data into actionable insights while maintaining compliance with data privacy laws.
Business QR Codes Boost Brand Awareness
You can use QR codes in emails, advertisements, newsletters, and even printed media to direct customers to your social media pages, encourage them to like, follow, and interact with your brand. Additionally, you can direct customers to your website, where they can learn more about your brand’s story, offerings, and competitive features.
Furthermore, creative uses of QR codes are memorable and help position companies at the forefront of consumer interest. Take, for example, Amazon’s Halloween Surprise campaign in 2020. Delivery boxes during the campaign period featured a spaced pumpkin shape where customers could draw faces and a QR code that, when scanned, opened an Augmented Reality (AR) experience.
Enhancing User Experience
Customer QR codes to an intended page or another URL without time-consuming steps like saving a link and typing it into a browser. This helps you get customers to where they need to be in their buyer’s journey, whether on your social media page to learn more about your brand, on a review page to provide feedback, or on your e-commerce site so they can make a purchase.
Moreover, consumers embrace creative uses of QR codes and don’t avoid them like traditional ads. This is true as long as the codes offer something of value to scanners, such as useful information, a free item or service, personalized content, or an enhanced customer experience.