QR Codes: When, Where, Why & How

Last week I posted an introduction to QR codes inspired by a whitepaper from GetResponse. Today, I thought we might consider the when, where, why and how of applying QR codes.

A camera equipped smartphone which has the right reading software installed can scan these codes in an instant and then do such things as:

  • Load a webpage
  • Contact info
  • Send an SMS
  • Provide Geo location
  • Register for a contest
  • Sign up for your newsletter
  • Follow a link to a web page
  • Play a YouTube video
  • Like a fan page on Facebook
  • Add a calendar event
  • Wifi network login

It’s a pretty cool way to convey some basic information quickly and easily. Chances may be better today that someone has a smartphone in their pocket rather than a pen, so allowing them to scan GEO location info or even an address and phone number from a billboard or print advertisement is convenient.

Size, location and how the QR code is integrated into your material are key considerations. Obviously you want people to notice the code so they’ll scan it, but not make it so overpowering that it dominates or distracts from other elements.

QR codes are still a novelty, but don’t go over the top with them. Try to use them in a way which saves someone effort and time. Again, think about the fact that it’s likely easier to find a phone in a purse or pocket than a pen and paper. What relevant information can you convey via QR code which will save someone a little hassle?

If you’re going to use QR codes consider that there are probably two things which really attract a mobile phone user to scan them:

  1. Convenience – scanning a QR code is certainly easier than typing something in or writing it down.
  2. Surprise/novelty factor – It’s that Easter egg effect and you should have something fun and worthwhile in the egg to reward them.

Remember, you’re asking people to reach into pocket or purse and snap a picture of the code to initiate an action. Don’t disappoint them! Give them something for the effort! Send them to your newsletter sign-up page and then let them download a discount coupon.

It may seem a bit redundant to put a QR code into an email. These codes appear to be best suited to connect the non-digital world via smartphones. Of course, there’s also a convenience factor in being able to quickly scan info into your phone from a website or email. However or wherever you use the codes, convenience and creativity should be guiding principles.

If you are still wondering about what QR codes are and how they work, the best way to reduce any confusion would be to try creating some. Here are three free QR code generators you can use:

    A nice simple generator
  • Zxing
    Easy to use with more abilities such as Geo location and WiFi
  • Beqrious
    Another good generator which also allows you to easily create QR codes linking to social media profiles and allows you to include graphics with the code image.

I think you can get pretty creative with QR codes so long as you don’t forget the main purpose is convenience for the user. If you do take the novelty approach, make sure you always reward someone for their time and effort.