QR codes or “quick response” codes are sweeping the globe. These specialty bar codes allow instant connectivity to a variety of applications through a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet. Instead of typing a web address, a QR Reader application captures the image and links the user to a web site or video presentation.
Though these bar codes are popular in Asia and Europe, the proliferation into the United States is just beginning. According to Google, within the next three years, more than 75 percent of internet traffic will be from mobile users.
Thus, it is important for the small business owner to keep in mind that viewers use small screens such as smart phones or limited size screens as in iPad or Kindle. QR images need to be camera friendly with content suitable for mobile devices.
QR codes can be linked to different types of media.
Most commonly, QR codes provide a direct link to a specific page on a web site. Better yet, links to mobile web sites are preferred. Specialty QR codes can be used to create detailed contact information or event information that can be saved to a calendar program.
QR codes can even be used for direct text messages or “click-to-call” phone numbers. Or, one can choose to have a QR code linked to map coordinates to provide GPS navigation to a specific destination. QR codes can make it easy to connect to a Wi-Fi service or join a social networking profile on Facebook or YouTube. Which kind of code to use is determined by the intentions of the business owner.
Getting started with QR codes can be quick, easy, and generally inexpensive or free. The user will need to create a unique QR image for each usage. Utilizing a QR Code Generator from developers such as ZXing Project, BeQRious, Delivr, Azonmedia, Mastro,goQR.me, Online QR Lab, Mobile-Barcodes, KAYWA, or BeeTagg, will enable even the most novice users to follow step-by-step instructions for creating their QR codes.
Most QR codes can be stored in multiple formats such as PNG, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, XAML, SVG, or EPS.
The practical application for businesses is endless.
Large retailers, such as Best Buy, include QR codes on their shelf tags that connect customers to product information pages on their web site. A local pizza restaurant placed the QR code on their menus with the direct link to call to make it easier to place to-go orders. Another restaurant included QR codes on table tents that linked to review sites such as Kudzu and CitySearch to allow their patrons to post positive comments.
A local jewelry store posted QR codes on their outside window displays to allow shoppers to look at their merchandise even when the store was closed.
A few best practices: (1) think how you want to connect with your customer and register the correct type of QR code; (2) make sure the printing of the QR code is clear and crisp; (3) for URL connections, hyperlink to pages other than the home page; (4) keep URLs short and simple, or use URL shortening software if need be; (5) give instructions next to the image for what action will follow. For instance, if directing the viewer to a video, include verbiage such as “Scan our QR code to watch a 30-second demonstration.”
QR codes provide cutting edge technology for every small business. As the population of smartphone and corresponding apps grow, so too does the opportunity for connecting with your customer base quickly and easily with such conduits as QR codes.
Drew Tonsmeire is Area Director of the Kennesaw State University Small Business Development Center. Contact him at 770-423-6450.