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QR (Quick Response) codes are much talked about at the moment, but will the adoption of such a simple yet powerful code change the landscape of digital marketing in 2011? 

Here are ten ways that QR codes could be implemented into businesses, whether B2B or B2C. You will have heard of some of these, but i'm sure there are a few you haven't...

A QR code is one of the easiest codes to set up, as in essence in it is a barcode with a URL attached. The QR code can link to any page the owner specifies, saving the need for manual entry of a URL.

Some brands have already starting adopting QR codes in their editorial and used it in very engaging ways, but 99% of brands haven't. The potential is there for QR codes though, and their uses are almost unlimited.

Here are ten ways that QR codes could be implemented into business:

Till receipts

Placing a QR code on the bottom of a till receipt has not as far as I have noticed been implemented fully across retail. This is such a simple and cost effective way of engaging with a consumer especially for brands with a mobile savvy demographic.

Product labels

Whether on swing tickets or on the printed product information the QR code could link to a dedicated landing page that brings up all of the product information.

Consumer mailing

Why not place a QR code on the bottom of all printed and digital communication directing to the landing page showing further content or indeed encouraging readers to opt in to electronic mailing rather than postal.

In shop windows  

Direct consumers to your store page for the location allowing them to bookmark the details including opening hours etc.

Public transport

How often do you look at the seat in front of you when on the train?  Why not put a QR code on the back of every seat and sell the advertising space, the great thing is the URL can be changed without the need to re-label the seats. Advertising opportunity also exists on the label.

At conferences 

We all have badges scanned but using QR codes on stands allows potential clients to bookmark your chosen contact details, saving business cards and helping to engage the client.

On business cards 

The humble business card could do with a face lift, why not QR the card and allow a landing page of detail about the business or individual.

Newspapers

On every offline ad, put the QR code to divert to a digital experience or Facebook page.

Prescriptions

Every drug sold comes with guidelines, place a QR code on the packaging allowing the patient to quickly view the instructions online.

Swimwear  

This one is a little different and tongue in cheek but that's no bad thing. Print a QR on the back of trunks or bikinis very similar to the year that Aussie Bum print on their swimwear linking to the wearers Facebook profile.

There are a few ideas that I have not put on here because they are probably beyond 2011, like projecting QR codes on buildings as well as placing them on billboards, or councils putting them on penalty notice charges, council tax bills etc, allowing us to go straight to the payment portal.

The above list contains practical uses in digital and offline marketing for QR codes, we'll see if any come to fruition when I review this post in 2012.

Lee Carpenter-Johnson

Published 4 April, 2011 by Lee Carpenter-Johnson

Lee Carpenter-Johnson is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter

3 more posts from this author

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

Hmmm - what could a QR code do that a URL could not? - not being snarky, but I honestly do not see the benefit; especially if you implement ufurls (that is "user friendly URLS) as I insist on.

On top of that I have literally never found a QR code reader that works; not one. This could be due to the low quality camera in the iPhone 3 or inherently buggy technology - but to me as a user it;s irrelevant; they just don't work for me.

over 5 years ago

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Matthew Hinman

I agree with James on one point - ufurls. That said, short urls and ufurls are few and far between. In contrast with his comment about smartphone cameras and software not working, I disagree there. I have have tried several different "scan" apps on my iPhone 3GS and have been successful each time scanning and opening URLs. But what really matters is that QR codes need to link to URLs that work well on the small screen, and not just link to a web site. That requires web devs to implement mobile-friendly subdomains and subfolders in order to facilitate the mobile QR code user.

over 5 years ago

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

Matt; what apps have you used? - I would be more than happy to be proved wrong on this!

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi James, It could be the iPhone 3G camera - I used to have difficulties with barcode scanners on that phone. I use the i-nigma app which seems to work well enough.

I think the idea behind QR codes over URLs is that they provide for a more direct response than by typing in URLs.

However, the fact that people actively have to download an QR reader app, and lack of awareness means that they may have limited use at the moment.

I like the idea of ufurls though, makes a lot of sense.

over 5 years ago

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Mark Crawford

Lee - I think you are absolutely right. QR codes are a very quick and useful way for mobile savvy customers to click straight to your dedicated mobile site.
These neat little images are beginning to pop up everywhere and can be used within bespoke and trackable marketing campaigns.
This is so much better than URL's as you can adapt your micro-sites to the medium the QR code is released into - it takes a little more work and imagination but the response rates can be drastically improved
As for barcode readers - all the above comments relate to i-phones. My android phone works brilliantly!

over 5 years ago

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

Ha! - my campaign to get "ufurl" incorporated into the jargon of every online marketer proceeds apace!

;-]

over 5 years ago

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Ryan Kent

Personally, I love QR codes, but only used offline. Don't see the point in sticking them at the end of digital communications when a URL can be clicked instead. I have a QR Code reader on my BlackBerry and it's worked perfectly every time.

over 5 years ago

Oliver Bishop

Oliver Bishop, e-Business Technical Architect at AkzoNobel

There is a certain degree of skill required when actually printing a QR code - things like the surrounding whitespace, URL complexity and a minimum size. The guidelines I found recommended 32mm square as best for maximum readability - my iPhone 3G certainly can't focus on anything much smaller than that.

over 5 years ago

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Marta

And on more example of QR codes use: Likify is a simple service that allows registered users to create QR-codes. When the QR-code is scanned the user gets pointed to a mobile landingspage, which contains the official Facebook Like button.
Nike has already got in on the game by placing its QR codes in shop windows to promote a running campaign in Antwerp

over 5 years ago

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Marta

And another one but much as it is sth totaly new I doubt if people will get it. AXA Belgium made a TVC spot with QR code.
Commercial shows a house. There's no door.Just the QR code. The commercial invites you to scan the code to see what happened...by using your iphone scanner you step into the commercial... Great idea but quess you need to be very quick to take out your iphone and scan the code if you see the commercial in TV...Highly unlikely...maybe it would work better as a pre roll or in-banner video.

over 5 years ago

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sTu

QR codes is the future (or similar barcode related tech) IMO. It connects the offline world with the online world with ease.

I agree with Mark in that they need to be used in the proper manner i.e. mob site or such like. If the space you are being directed to is not designed well then it could be off putting and ruin the experience. I also agree with Ryan - there is no point on the codes featuring on anything other than offline material.

People at the moment possibly don't get it and the fact that users have to download an app in order to use it could steer people away. I truly think though that this is a small effort for a lot of gain and in time more and more people will be using this as it literally completes the circuit between offline and online.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

As others have pointed out the big failing in QR codes at the moment (has been true for years actually) is the lack of (reliable) reader (pre-installed) on the phones.

I've found the QR readers to work well enough but it's having to download a QR reader in the first place that is the big barrier to adoption in my view.

Anyone know when phones will come with a QR reader pre-built in? And I guess then there's the battle of *which* type of QR code (Microsoft pushing their own version etc.). This fragmentation in types of QR code will further hold back the market.

Until there is a standard, well recognised, single QR code format, and phones where it 'just works' without the need for any app download, I can't see things taking off like they might.

over 5 years ago

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

And on top of all of this there is the contention that QR codes are "skip technology" - that they have been superseded before mass adoption.

I'd love to take credit for this concept but it was originally coined by fellow Brummie blogger Jon Bounds at http://www.jonbounds.co.uk/blog/889/skip-tech-%E2%80%94-be-careful-what-you-back/

over 5 years ago

Oliver Bishop

Oliver Bishop, e-Business Technical Architect at AkzoNobel

I read that Google who had been using QR codes for window stickers to tie in with Google Places have just stopped doing that in favour of Near field communication (NFC), but that's probably a bit ahead of the game!

over 5 years ago

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sTu

Nokia and Google are already doing this on some of their handsets. The success of this is of course debatable. The pathway to the tech could be clearer by having more sophisticated 'multitasking' pre-built camera apps which take pictures as well as recognising barcodes. That could be a step in the right direction. Of course, as Ashley points out, as well as a universal set of standards or best practices for their implementation and use.

There is definitely a gap there and it is only a matter of time for it to get filled be it either this technology or some form of augmented reality.

over 5 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

There's also no doubt a customer service angle with QR codes. For me, the beauty of them is that you can tie the resolution or at least a firstline resolution into the object itself. Usually if something goes wrong you need to find the resolution somewhere else, either through calling someone up, looking online etc. But if you embed the solution into the object itself, the resolution becomes intrinsically part of it as well. At that point you are literally resolving at source.

over 5 years ago

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Bill Coleman

A little help please. I have been thinking about using a qr code as a graphic design element in our next solar powered, 14 foot tall, Bubble Tower Sculpture design. (world's biggest bubble toy) But which code? How do I tell if my url: BubbleTower.com is user friendly for the many mobile platforms?

Any suggestions would be very welcome. Thank you!

over 5 years ago

Jennie Wright

Jennie Wright, Marketing Manager at Syndicut

I first saw QR codes back in 2005/06 and I'm still yet to see a campaign where they work as an effective mechanism. It's just too faffy and they often don't work. Unless there is a high profile campaign to educate the masses I feel they will continue to be white noise to average consumer.

over 5 years ago

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Andrew Nicholson

With 33% of smartphone users opting for Android, at least a third of the market will be using Google Goggles as their default QR reader, and this is one of the most reliable readers on the market.

Regards real life applications, I work for a large catering and events company. We have begun printing QR codes on all our public catering outlets so people can download menus and price lists straight to their phones. The great thing about this is that availability can be updated in real time, so if an item sells out we can simply remove it or replace it with an alternative. It's also a great method of crowd control as customers don't have to huddle around menu boards when deciding their orders.

There is however still a lot of confusion in the market, and I agree with previous comments about sending out QR codes on digital communication. What is the point? If people are able to access their emails then likely as not they'll also be able to click on a link. QR codes are there to bridge the gap between real and online life for the mobile user. And they do this extremely well

over 5 years ago

Jennie Wright

Jennie Wright, Marketing Manager at Syndicut

Hi Andrew, I don't suppose you'd be happy to give us an indication of what sort of uptake you are seeing?

over 5 years ago

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amit

Cool QR Code Tshirt with personal message - Great idea!

over 5 years ago

Ben Aronsten

Ben Aronsten, Managing Director at SED

QR codes used to drive the right content in the right context are brilliant. I have seen some great executions.

Not a massive fan of them being slapped on Ad campaigns that seemingly don't really add any value. However on-pack for retail to reorder is really effective from the feedback I'm getting from some FMCG brands.

Think the critical part is QR code reader saturation. Once all the smart phones are QR enabled when shipped. Then i think we will see some great traction and hopefully by then better execution.

over 5 years ago

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Adam Flynn

Used in the correct way that actually provide users with more or different information QR codes are a great innovation for print media.

The Birmingham Post newspaper has started using QR codes within it's property supplement. The QR code allow customers to be able to view the full details of a property on the estate agents website.

over 5 years ago

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Charlotte

We used a QR code from Kimtag on some print ads recently along with a 'custom' web link. Got more traffic via the QR than the link. Found most people then went to Facebook via the QR though rather than the website.

You still really need to use both QR and web address but the QR gets people interested.

over 5 years ago

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Terry Benge

To ensure QRs work with all scanners, make sure the URL is as small as possible. This reduces the error rates.
Using a shorturl tool e.g. ih.to to reduce your URL before encoding it will improve the QR scan rate.

about 5 years ago

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Matt Sullivan

LOVE the idea of the vCard QR at a conference booth!

Will be using it at LavaCon 2011 and at STC 2012 when representing Adobe Systems.

@mattrsullivan

about 5 years ago

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car window stickers

Wao, These 10 ways to use QR cods are really helpful and awesome. Public transport, on business cards and newspapers are more helpful tips for me. Thanks for this.

over 4 years ago

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Ruth Orr Orr

We have implemented a a mobile marketing plan using QR Codes at a local Hallmark store. The customer scans the code at the register, which takes them to the store's Facebook page where they "like" the page and receive a 20% discount. Works like a charm!

over 4 years ago

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Mobile Marketing

Good article. I like the idea of adding a QR code in the drug packaging with further information about the drug.

about 4 years ago

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