Quick Response (QR) codes were originally the brainchild of Toyota back in the mid 1990’s and were developed in order to track vehicle parts in manufacturing. The name comes from the fact that they allow users to decode its contents at high speed. QR codes work in the same way as regular barcodes except they are two-dimensional and made up of black modules arranged in a square on a white background, like this example below.
For the past year they have been a seriously hot trend largely due to the fact that they can literally be applied to almost everything. Although they have been used for years in Japan, the technology to utilize them to similar levels elsewhere was simply not available. Thanks to the world wide explosion of the smart phone however, that’s changing. Most smart phone users download an app that allows them to easily scan QR codes, but some new smart phones come with a QR scanner pre-installed, which just goes to show how popular they’re becoming.
Once a code has been scanned, it causes the phone to load data. Often this data is a URL, which then opens the embedded website on the mobile device thereby delivering instant information to the reader.
Although QR codes are undeniably novel and successful in print form, many marketers are still sitting on the fence regarding its practicality in email marketing. In an email message they would be used in the same place as an ordinary link, but where a QR code would still require scanning, a link can simply be clicked. This makes it a tricky and less effective option if your subscribers are already viewing the email on their mobile device. If that’s the case, they would need to be able to first save the image on their phone to scan later, or they would have to have a second mobile device handy in order to scan the code (somewhat unlikely). Either way, it takes away some of the ‘immediacy’ that a QR code brings with it.
If however you are integrating email marketing with traditional marketing solutions such as direct print mail, then QR codes could be put to good use here. Unique codes on advertising could instantly take readers to:
There’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing much more creative use of QR codes this year, even though we’re already finding them in magazine advertising and editorials, name tags, for sale signs (directs you to a virtual tour of the property) coupons, billboards, busses and bus stops, posters, cards, clothes, business cards, invoices, print distributions and street signs, making them hugely versatile. If you can find a way to incorporate them into your overall marketing strategy, you’ll be engaging with your customers on an entirely new level and you’ll be staying ahead of the latest marketing trend.
If you’re interested in taking the next step, then there are a number of free or inexpensive QR code generators online such as Kaywa, ZXing Project and QR Stuff. For inspiration, you can also check out some innovative examples of QR codes here and here.