QR codes are a kind of bar code that links a smart phone to a website via a scanning app on the phone. Adding a QR code to a printed piece gives your customers access to product information at the moment the customer wants it, and gives you a chance to gather valuable market intelligence.
Everyone’s curious about QR Codes, those little maze-like squares that are starting to show up on ads, signs and product packaging.
What are QR codes? How do they work? What do they do for the marketer and for customers?
What QR Codes Are
QR (Quick Response) codes are similar to the inventory and postal bar codes we’re familiar with, but with important added advantages.
Like the common bar code, a QR code is machine-readable text. But QR codes:
- carry much more information
- can be branded
- are trackable
- are readable by smart phones, a device many of us carry most of the time
A “smart phone” is any phone with a camera and a browser to connect it to the internet. If your phone has these features, all you need is an app to read QR codes. Apps come pre-installed on most major phones, or can be downloaded for free.
How QR Codes Work
You use your phone to scan QR codes from any print medium your phone can photograph, whether an ad, package, catalog, sign, poster, business card, magnet or even a billboard.
Suppose you see a QR code on an ad or the packaging of a product that interests you, a code that is well-designed with the marketer’s logo, and accompanied by text explaining how to use it. What happens when you scan it with your phone?
Most of the time you are immediately connected to a custom microsite optimized for mobile devices. This microsite lets the marketer inform you with additional product information, at the very moment you’re interested in reading it.
The marketer could also provide you via the microsite a calendar of events, contact information, an email address, an SMS text message, a dealer locator, or other directional information. The marketer may also download coupons or discount offers to your phone, if you grant permission.
QR Codes Gather Market Intelligence
Equally important, as you’re doing this, the marketer is learning more about you as a customer, via the trackability feature of the code.
The marketer may learn the store or other location where you scanned the code, as well as the time of day and date you scanned it. This information allows the marketer to evaluate the scope and effectiveness of the campaign, and to plan better campaigns for the future.
QR codes connect print to the Internet. The flexible back and forth of information between marketer and customer via this connection is the key to QR codes’ value. QR codes afford the marketer an unprecedented opportunity to tell the customer more, right when the customer is motivated to learn more, and at the same time capture valuable information about the customer’s behavior, so as to better communicate with him or her in the future.
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