What Are QR Codes And Should You Use Them?

What Are QR Codes And Should You Use Them?

See this barcode looking image? That is a QR code. If you have a mobile phone with a QR reader app installed, focus the camera on the screen, it should take you to a special web page 🙂

Don’t have a QR reader app? You can get them free. I’m sure there are plenty of options for all kinds of devices. The one I use comes from i-nigma.

What’s the big deal?

QR codes are big in Japan. Apparently, these are everywhere in the cities there. In the U.S., not so much although I have seen it sparingly. The idea behind using it is to mobile users don’t have to type a long URL to get to your site or any page you want to send them to. I must admit that does make sense. My phone has a QWERTY keyboard and even with that, I absolutely hate entering URLs into the browser. It’s just a pain. So scanning and going to the site absolutely rocks.

Basic ideas for QR codes – put it on your flyers, business cards or any printable material. I think that is neat and since we are in need of new business cards, we will absolutely do that for the next batch.

Beyond that, here’s a list of what some companies have used QR codes for:

  • As part of a contest
  • A scavenger hunt promotion
  • A way to send mobile users to watch a video (promotional, educational or otherwise)
  • A way to get mobile users to sign a petition
  • A way for customers to accumulate rewards

Should you use it?

This will depend a lot on how mobile-tech savvy is your market and also how offline it is. For us, most of our business is online. I don’t see a huge benefit for adding QR codes except perhaps to get people to the mobile version of the site. I think it’s a lot easier for people to just click a link. Even with a pretty savvy group, the adoption of QR readers amongst my site’s audience I suspect is small. Guess I’ll have to test it.

I think there is more reason to use it if the business is largely offline, or to use it on offline materials. I love the idea of using that to accumulate rewards. But it will always fall back on the fundamental problem. Adoption rate. Apparently in Asia, phone manufacturers have the readers built-in so there is no extra work for the user except to launch the reader and snap. But that’s not the case in North America. If you are in Europe, do put in a comment how well this is being adopted in Europe.

That’s not to say I won’t use it. Having one on the business card would likely be a good ice breaker and nicely illustrate (partially) what I do. If I had a physical store, I would use it on my website to link to a map of my store. But until there is higher adoption rate, I’ll probably not spend too much resources on building massive campaigns around it. Being a tech lover, that does make me sad but this is a great reminder. It’s not about the latest tech. It’s about how it will be used and help your audience. If they don’t get it or won’t use it, the newest shiny technology does not have a place in your marketing program.


2D Code – an awesome resource to show how others around the world are using them.

Qurify – generate your own QR code, even has a WordPress plugin

Lynette Chandler
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  1. It seems these codes are becoming more and more popular and I never even knew what they were! Thanks so much for sharing about them. It helps so much.

  2. Thanks Lynette. I have noticed more and more apps using these codes, and always wondered how to generate them. Thanks for the share.

  3. I had installed a code reader software in my cell phone and pointed the camera on the code. Its really good. I also never even knew that what they were..Thanks for sharing..

  4. I’ve never seen these before. It’s a really cool idea but I think it needs to grow in popularity and have more devices that can read them before they’ll be worth most businesses using them in their advertising campaigns. Any chance there’s a list of devices that can currently read these?

  5. Rats, someone beat me to it. I had an idea to design a tag like this which would be recognizable by devices. It’s the future – object recognition is one of the main hurdles in robotics and a universal tagging system like this will overcome it.

  6. Are there other uses in business? Most of the time technolgoy comes up wih something new, companies figure out a way of making use of it in their business.

  7. Neil Duckett says

    After 3 years living in Japan and both phones i had, had QR capability and i never really saw the benefit of it … just a gimmick. Some restaurants used to tie coupon codes to it and although my Japanese was OK it wasn’t what was needed to fully utilise the capability.

  8. Ignorance is never a bliss. This information is highly appreciated. Kudos to the people who exert the effort to extend the information to as many as possible.