QR (short for “quick response”) codes are 2D barcodes that can be scanned and read by smart phones. Once read by your phone, they will redirect you to a website, send a text on your behalf, or provide directions via Google maps, among other tasks.
How can you create QR codes?
There are plenty of sites that will allow you to create QR codes for free. You just need to provide the URL you want to send people to, the message you want to share, or whatever other information you’d like to put into the QR code.
QR Codes on business cards. OK, not the most creative idea ever. In fact, this is probably the de facto way many businesses use QR codes. Rather than overload a business card with all of your contact info you could include the bare minimum for reaching you, then create a QR code that leads people to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Plaxo, Yelp, FourSqure, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Whrrl, and MySpace profiles. Little muss, little fuss.
Labeling. Somewhere, a restaurant patron is enjoying wine from your vineyard. They notice the QR code on the bottle and quickly scan it. That takes them to a mobile site where they can learn more about your wine, your vineyard, and links to where you can buy a case for delivery…all before the check comes.
Storefront displays. Few retail businesses are open 24/7. Don’t (fully) disappoint potential customers after you’ve left for the day. Create a Shop Online Now! QR code and put it in your storefront window. One quick scan and you’ve turned a potential lost sale into an online customer who’s going to share a lot more of their contact information with you.
Promotions, discounts and giveaways. If you want to encourage patronage from the iPhone and Android set, you could create discounts that are specific to the QR codes. You could run these codes in advertisements or post them throughout your store. You could even turn them into a “retweet” so that your shoppers share their discount with their followers.
T-shirts. Put your QR code on your t-shirt (or parka, in Maine) for some shameless self-promotion. Or, make a bigger impression by printing up 100 t-shirts and put them on 100 interns and have them attend a public event like a ballgame, street fair or campaign stop. For more engagement from the crowd, put different messages on the shirts, so people take more scans of more of your codes.
Get funky with your QR Code design. QR codes allow a little wiggle room, meaning that you can “hack” the code itself. A famous, early example is the BBC’s QR Code. However, you can play around with the QR code once it’s been generated in an image editing tool like Photoshop and work in your own logo or brand. Always be sure to test your QR code before printing up a few thousand copies, however.
Use QR codes to get Likes and Follows. You can create mobile-friendly landing pages with Facebook like buttons or lead them to your Twitter page for a quick follow. The name of the game is engagement, so a like or follow can create a long-term marketing opportunity. Caveat: so far the Like buttons that QR tags generate lead to the Facebook website rather than the mobile app. I don’t know about you, but I rarely log into Facebook’s website from my phone, so that requires extra steps the average person may not be willing to take.
Supplement your retail space. QR codes next to pieces of art could help art galleries move more art, or museums replace those aging audio tape tours. Hardware stores could link to how-to videos on YouTube of how to use specific power tools. Groceries could link to pages that talk about how their products were sourced, and perhaps to interviews of the farmers who grew the food. Electronic shops could bring visitors to review sites so they could get unbiased reviews of stocked products. Or to an e-commerce site where shoppers could buy out-of-stock items. Book stores could link to their own reviews of books on their blog.
Increase e-commerce sales. Since QR codes can lead to URLs, you can create a code that will populate a shopping cart with specific products. (Assuming your e-commerce solution can handle that.)
Build your email subscriber list. Use your QR code to send people to your email signup. Just make sure you give people a compelling reason to subscribe to your list…otherwise you will have just wasted their time. Not the best way to engage your audience.
Get the phone ringing. QR codes can also make a phone call. (Oh, imagine the mischief!) If you want to get the phones ringing–at your business or at campaign headquarters–you can create a code that will dial a predetermined number. Likewise, QR codes can generate SMS text messages.