Let’s play Q&A with QR codes!
Q: What’s a QR code?
A: A QR (Quick Response) Code is one of those designs like the one on the right that you see in stores, on ads, and possibly on the bench at your bus stop. It’s a specialized barcode. Think of it as a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds. If you have the app on your smartphone (get it for free for your iPhone Blackberry, Android, or Windows phone wherever you usually get your apps), you can click on QR codes with your phone and be taken immediately to the web page to which that particular QR code is linked. Of course, you can also make QR codes to take people to your web pages.
Q: Where can I get a QR code?
A: All over. The only thing easier to find for free than a QR reading app is a QR generator. Google that phrase and you’ll be set. A few you might like:
- QR Code Generator
- QR Code Vector Generator
- Free QR Code Vector Generator
- Social QR Generator
- Fancy QR Code Generator
Q: What page should my QR code link to?
A: What are you trying to accomplish? If you want to alert shoppers in your store to the existence of your website, you can send them to your homepage with a QR code, but most shoppers don’t engage with those, so also be sure to include the URL (web address) in text form so they might remember and visit later. Usually, the best results come from specific information or offers. Here are some examples:
- Use QR codes to answer questions. Put a QR code that goes to recipes next to the bin of bok choy you’re selling, link car shoppers to the Consumer Reports review of the car they’re looking at, or connect people with a video showing a product in use.
- Send customers to a coupon for an item they can purchase on the spot. I can see this for sites like myDealCompass, too. A sign saying, “Get your deal and stay an extra night!” would encourage people to make use of the code.
- Add a QR code to your print mailings that offers specific additional information. “Shh! Check out our Private Specials,” “Download our new color chart,” or “Read how one company tripled their revenues by using our software” will get much more response than a more general destination.
- The social QRs linked above will let people “Like” you instantly on Facebook.
Q: Do some URLs work better than others?
A: I’m so glad you asked that question! Yes, shorter URLs contain less information, so they make simpler QR codes which are easier to read. Run your URL through a shortening tool before you generate your QR code.
Q: Now that I have a QR code, what should I do with it?
A: The great thing about QR codes is that they don’t involve any special technology. Determined QR code testers have used everything from ink to sand to create QR codes, and they usually work as long as they’re flat, neither very large nor very small, and accessible to people’s phones. People are becoming more receptive to QR codes as they become more familiar (a year ago, for example, consumers worried that using a QR code could put viruses on their phones or let marketers get their phone numbers). However, the most recent data suggests that the percentage of people who scan QR codes is still fairly small. People are more likely to scan a QR code at home than anywhere else (“in a store” is likely location #2, and all other locations are very rare). They’ll usually scan a code in a magazine or a printed ad, sometimes on product packaging, and not much else. As of last summer, QR code scanners were mostly affluent young men. So you have to figure that most people will not scan your QR codes, and that means you should use lots to get results. Since it’s just ink (unless you’re really determined to use sand), that’s no problem. You can put them anywhere at no extra cost.
Q: If people don’t scan them often, why should I use them?
A: First, people may not scan them much now, but they are increasingly likely to use them as time goes on. Start now, and your customers will get used to the idea. Second, the use of QR codes causes people to see your brand as hip, cool, and upscale, even if nobody ever scans them. That’s the benefit right now; as time goes on, the perception of QR codes as exciting and new will lessen — but people will also be more likely to use them.
Q: Can I track my QR codes?
A: You sure can. Use the URL Builder Tool at Google Analytics, remember to shorten the URL, and then run that through the QR Code generator. Google Analytics will track it for you.
Q: Can I put QR codes on my website or social media sites?
A: Yep. See, I put one on this page. Susan Idlet of United-Bilt Homes may have asked us about this, and we began thinking of all the possibilities. (This is what I do. If you mentioned casually that you thought you’d like to keep an elephant in your backyard, I’d immediately begin thinking of ways for you to do that.) Jonathan thought we could put QR codes linking to the floor plans of their homes on the pages showing the outsides of the homes. Granted, there are already buttons on those pages taking people to the floor plans, but a QR code would give it a secret message kind of feeling. That is really the problem with QR codes online. There’s no real reason to use a QR code instead of a button, unless you want to offer a secret treasure experience. Since people won’t generally scan QR codes unless there’s a clear benefit to doing so, they’re not likely to scan your online secret QR codes. Maybe a secret private coupon they can carry into a store and redeem with their phone would work, but overall it’s hard to see the benefit. If you have a better idea for this kind of use, let me know.