QR Codes: What They Are and How to Use Them

What’s a QR code?

A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a specific matrix barcode(or two-dimensional code) that is machine readable and designedto be read by smartphones. The code consists of black modulesarranged in a square pattern on a white background. Theinformation encoded may be text, a URL, or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary DensoWave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types oftwo-dimensional barcodes. The QR code was designed to allow itscontents to be decoded at high speed. (Source: Wikipedia)

Basically, a QR code is a sophisticated bar code. So what makesQR codes different than the typical bar codes you see on foodproducts and other items?

Typical bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can onlyhold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes aretwo-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands ofalphanumeric characters of information. (Source: How QR CodesCan Grow Your Business [http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-qr-codes-can-grow-your-business/]).

In fact, it’s their ability to hold significantly moreinformation, as well as their user-friendliness which makesQR codes practical for individuals and businesses of all sizes.

QR codes can be scanned and read by camera-equippedsmartphones via software that’s already installed on yourphone, or with an application that you download such as i-nigma Reader(http://www.i-nigma.com/Downloadi-nigmaReader.html), which arecompatible with a wide variety of modern smartphones includingiPhone, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Motorola and Nokia. Thereaders/scanners give smartphone users the ability to read a QRcode without special equipment.

For example, you could walk into a store, use your smartphoneto scan an item that has a QR code on it, and have immediateaccess to the information.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention proprietarytechnology. These are closed-end solutions that are tiedto specific reader/scanner applications, limiting theirdistribution. For example, Microsoft Tags. Conversely, QR codes,which are an open-source technology, can be created and scannedusing a variety of mobile apps, giving you much greaterflexibility.

Popular for many years in Japan, in the last year or so,QR codes have started to gain traction in the U.S. In fact,according to a report by Mobio Identity Systems, QR code usageincreased by nearly 4600 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the U.S.That’s not just a huge jump, that’s a quantum leap!

Following are 10 ways you can use QR codes to promote yourbusiness:

  1. Increase Website Sales. Did you know QR codes can lead tospecific URL’s? You can create codes that are specific tocertain products on your site. For example, new or slow-movingproducts – or new product launches.
  2. Build Your E-mail Subscriber List. You can build your e-mailsubscriber list by creating a link to your e-mail signup form.Just make sure you give people a compelling reason to subscribeto your newsletter. Just like you don’t like having your timewasted on trivial pursuits, neither do others.
  3. Business Cards. Rather than overload your business card witha ton of information, you can just include the bare minimum,then create a QR code that leads people to your Twitter,Facebook, LinkedIn pages, etc.
  4. Contests, Discounts, Sweepstakes and Giveaways. These are agreat hook and can be very effective when used in conjunctionwith QR codes. For example, you can create promotions that arespecific to the QR codes. You can place these codes in youradvertisements or post them on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn,where they have the possibility of going viral.
  5. Direct Mail. I just read an article titled “Why There’s aDirect Mail QR Code Explosion Happening Now”(http://www.yaffetidbitsblog.com/advertising/) that says the U.S.Postal Service is basically paying advertisers to use QR codes.If you use direct mail to promote your business, you shoulddefinitely look into it.
    According to the article, now through the end of August, theUSPS is giving bulk mailers a discount on their postal rate ifthey include a visible QR code on their direct mail pieces.
    Obviously, there are some rules. For example, in order for themailer to get the postal discount, the codes have to be relevantto the DM piece and not just some random link in order for themailer to get the postal discount. It appears a lot of the bigdirect mail marketers are taking advantage of the discount.
  6. E-courses. Are you an expert at something? You can createa QR code that generates an e-mail that instructs yourautoresponder to automatically start sending daily, weekly ormonthly e-mails that contain course lessons and other pertinentinformation.
  7. Flyers. Yes, people still use flyers to promote theirbusiness. For example, suppose you own a restaurant. Youcould create a QR code that goes directly to a URL that givesa discount on a meal and directions to your restaurant.
  8. Scratch and Win Cards Promotion. Have you ever seen howexcited people get when they’re scratching one of those cards?Even if they don’t win, they’re excited by the mere possibility”they could win!” You could add to their excitement by makingthem scan the card to see if they’ve won.
  9. Free Downloads. If you use e-books or software to promoteyour business, you could use QR codes to distribute them. Whencustomers scan the code, give them a free e-book or softwaredownload. You could also offer customers the opportunity toreceive future specials if they signup for your newsletter.Now that’s incentive!
  10. Customer Service Help. You could use QR codes to givecustomers more information about your product or service.Create a QR code that leads to a FAQ page where customers canget answers to their questions via email or live chat. You canalso give customers a “heads up” on future products.

If you are interested in generating and distributing your ownQR code, you can do so at: http://qrcode.kaywa.com

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