Everywhere you go, whether on public transportation, at a bus stop, or at the store, you will see QR codes, which is a 2D barcode. They are similar to a scan barcode or UPC code located on price tags at retail stores but QR codes are scanned using your smart phone and they look like a square maze (example below). This code can store data about a product or company or whatever is being advertised, such as hyperlinks, telephone numbers, email, text, SMS/MMS message, contact info such as a vCard, or calendar info such as vCalendar.
Here is an example of what a QR code looks like compared to a UPC code.
The purpose of QR codes is to enhance user experience, drive more traffic, interaction and conversions from where ever you are, with the convenience of using your smart phone, and to provide value to customers.
The great thing is that QR codes can be printed on any surface and location such as TV ads, billboards, newspapers, temporary tattoos, product packaging, labels, even on cake frosting! Keep in mind the location must be easily scannable. Note that you do not want to print QR codes on plastic frames and packaging that reflect light. Also, hillsides and subways can lose Wi-Fi access.
ScanLife EZcode and Microsoft Tag are proprietary formats which can only be decodable by their tools, while QR and DataMatrix formats are standard.
You may ask how you go about creating QR codes (2D barcode). There are tools to generate and read them and they are free! The tools are available for all major mobile phone handsets. To generate a QR code campaign, you will need the following:
- 2D barcode generator (Website service)
- 2D barcode reader (Mobile app) is required to decode the encoded data. Note some mobile phones come with a reader app pre-installed but if not, you can get one from these sites, QuickMark.com, redlaser.com, get.beetagg.com, scan.mobi, and getscanlife.com. Redlaser.com has a good geo location feature for price comparison shopping.
- 2D barcode (generator) management/tracking tool (Website service) used to track analytics such as demographics, geo locations, repeat scans, etc…These tracking tools are not expensive and sometimes have a free trial depending on the number of scans. Here are some examples of management/tracking tools, Delivr, ScanLife, Tappinn, QReateBUZZ, BeQRious, SPARQCode, and QReate and Track.
As a side note, here are some things to remember.
- Always provide a back-up (i.e. hyperlink, SMS text message, etc.) option for users to retrieve info within the code. A back-up enables non-smartphone users to also participate.
- It is a good idea to use the barcode generator (management/tracking) URL shortener tool to shrink your hyperlinks.
- Do not create a complex 2D barcode as it takes longer to scan. Smartphone cameras with lower resolution can’t scan smaller QR codes. Also a camera which does not have an auto focus feature will have scanning issues.
- Make sure to direct users to a mobile landing page that detects their phone type and suggests an app, or, suggest a quality reader app that generally works for all mobile handsets such as Scanlife or BeeTagg.
- It is fun to get artistic with your QR code design but not too much as you want to make sure users can easily recognize a QR code at first glance, and, that it’s easy to scan.
- Most importantly, first test the scan-ability of your QR code, with camera resolution and auto focus in mind. Also test it on the surface on which you plan to print the code, and, test the scan time and distance.
Now have fun starting your own QR code campaign! Or, if you already have, let us know in the comments below how you did.