What’s a QR Code?

The pixelated barcode may help you market your business.

Hand holding cell phone while scanning QR code.

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If you’ve seen QR codes in advertisements, on event tickets, or on the door at your favorite store, you may have wondered what exactly those blurry squares do. They’re two-dimensional pixelated versions of conventional barcodes, and they can be used in marketing, admissions, shipping and packaging, and more. 

How QR Codes Work

Scanned by a special reader or cell phone, QR codes are a way to open more in-depth content about a product, service or business. Anyone can create them, linking them to a web page, PDF file, app, menu, or rewards program, among other things. Depending on the software used, QR codes are trackable and adjustable. You can change the content linked to a QR code by changing the URL associated with that code.

History of QR Codes

The QR Code (QR stands for Quick Response) was developed in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave as an alternative to the traditional barcode that would hold more information.

It was first adopted by the auto industry in Japan, but the technology became widespread rapidly because Denso decided to make the specifications for its use public.

These days, most cell phones on the market can read QR codes easily. Newer phones now offer built-in QR scanning directly from the camera app, and for older phones, there are many QR readers available for download from an app store.

How to Use QR Codes for Your Business

QR codes can be used in industries including manufacturing, distribution, food, pharmaceuticals, travel, entertainment, and retail sales. One of the most versatile uses is for marketing your business. If you’re thinking of using QR codes for marketing, here are some options.

Once you’ve decided how you want to use QR codes, you’ll need to choose a QR code generator to create them. There are a bunch of websites you can use to create them for free; some charge to manage the codes and to analyze how and when they are scanned.

In Store

Browsers in a store may like to know the backstory of why people do what they do, and QR codes are a perfect way to present that information. For example, you can have a sign that says “How we got started” and a QR code that links to a video with the story of your company’s brand. You can do the same thing with the history of the products you sell. 

Ratings and Feedback

Most business owners know that disgruntled customers love to leave negative reviews on sites like Yelp. So encouraging customers who have a good experience to leave positive online reviews is critical, and QR codes can make it super easy. Use them to create a review function where people can instantly rate their experience on Yelp, Facebook or a custom form that you create. You can post your QR code at the checkout or on your receipts to get customers in the moment.

Your App

QR codes can be used to get prospective customers to the correct app store so they can download your app on their phone. Apps can increase brand awareness and engagement over time. 

Virtual Business Cards

You can add a QR code to your business card. It may just be a convenient way for a contact to instantly add your details to their phone, or you may want to link to an online resume or promotional website. For example, if you are in an industry that has specialized production, a QR code on your business card could link to a short video that shows off your production facility and employees.

Bottom Line

Since most mobile phones can read QR codes, the only limit is your creativity. QR codes are inexpensive to generate and can be printed on nearly any physical medium or embedded in websites. It’s important to remember that QR codes should be one of many marketing tools. Not all customers and prospects will use the codes, so make sure you’ve got other ways to reach your target audience and deepen the customer experience.