I’ve been following QR code technology for about two years now, and it seems that in the past six months or so QR code usage has spiked. Although adaptation has been relatively slow and somewhat cumbersome, people are beginning to see the wealth of opportunities that QR codes offer. From billboards to print advertisements, QR codes have been steadily becoming a consistent addition to communications across various mediums.
Personally, I’ve been using them on my business cards for some time – and I always seem to get funny looks when handing them out to people. I have a duo of QR codes – one leading to my resume (hosted as a Google Doc), and one that leads to my LinkedIn profile.
“What is this thing?” or “What kind of logo is this?” were once common responses to my business card. I’d usually have to follow up my explanation of the technology with a demonstration. Depending upon whom I was speaking with, I’d usually mention how I have Google Analytics tracking the statistics on my resume.
Now, that’s all changed. We have government agencies like the EPA implementing QR codes in the latest iteration of fuel economy stickers. Television commercials are using QR codes displayed for the duration of the advertisement. You can even find them on billboards.
The main advantage of QR codes is that they provide a physical link to a target, and the possibilities for their use are endless. Rolling out a new ad campaign across different mediums? Create personalized URL’s (PURL) for each medium, and develop QR codes that point to each PURL. Incorporate marketing metrics on these pages, and you can then track the effectiveness of each medium. This type of strategy will help to inform you on where to target your customers offline.
Since the URL’s that are targeted are static, they can be pointed at dynamic sites, such as blogs, Flickr accounts, or Facebook pages. A QR code offers permanence, while still remaining up-to-date. I once recommended to a job-hunting photographer friend to implement QR codes in his physical portfolio, and gave him some insights on creative usage of these codes. He then implemented the codes across his portfolio – instead of descriptions of images, he linked to blog posts regarding the artistic process behind each image. He got some great feedback on his portfolio, and landed some great interviews because of this.
In the past, the main disadvantage with QR codes was that they required additional software to be installed on a mobile device. There just wasn’t widespread adoption. This is beginning to change, as most smartphones today have this functionality built in, or easily available for a quick download.
QR codes have many uses, especially in content marketing. Before you dive in, there are a few things you need to know before implementing them:
- Make sure you are using the right code format. There are many different types of barcodes, and most readers are designed for certain types. The most widely used format is the QR code, but I’ve personally seen Data Matrix codes being used in place of QR codes. While Data Matrix certainly works, you are limiting your user base by using this format. More recently, I was handed a sales brochure that used Data Matrix codes, and it was unreadable using my Blackberry, as well as a friend’s iPhone. This problem could have been avoided by simply using a QR code.
- Make sure your QR code is sized appropriately. I’ve come across codes that are the size of a quarter – which are much too small for phones with lower-resolution cameras. Conversely, QR codes implemented on billboards can be difficult to read. Most cameras on phones use digital zoom, thus lowering the resolution and making the code unreadable.
- If your QR code is pointing to a lengthy URL, consider shortening it. When developing a QR code for my business card, the link to my resume via Google Docs was 116 characters long, resulting in a data-heavy QR code. I had some difficulty scanning it with my Blackberry (and it’s 2MP camera), so I shortened it using bit.ly, and it was much easier for my low-resolution phone to read.
- Identify opportunities for PURL’s. If you are implementing QR codes in various locations or in different mediums, consider the benefits of being able to track where your content is getting the most hits. You’ll be able to track the effectiveness of your campaign by looking at page view statistics.
- Test, test, test. Then test again. Borrow phones from your coworkers or friends with various applications and operating systems to get a general idea of your code’s functionality.
Generally speaking, you want to make your QR code easy to read. Your QR code campaign cannot succeed if no one can access your content.
QR codes have vast opportunities. Imagine that you’re waiting at a bus stop. There could be a QR code posted, which linked to an updated timetable, so you’d know exactly when the bus was coming. Imagine a city implementing QR codes in popular tourist spots, neighborhoods, and historic districts – all linking to interesting and relevant content. It would completely transform the tourism experience.
In closing, QR codes provide incredible opportunity to enhance user experiences across various industries and services. These codes are an excellent example of inbound marketing – incentivizing users to come to you via relevant and interesting content. I hope that widespread adoption of QR codes continues, and we keep coming up with innovative ways to use them.
Author: Scott Dodge is a Search Engine Marketer at Internet Exposure, a Minneapolis Web Design company. Internet Exposure provides web design, web development, Internet marketing, web hosting, and tech support services to clients around the globe.
Image by CoCreatr