QR, or Quick Response, codes are rapidly hitting mainstream use. They’ve been around since the mid-90s, but have finally filtered out into daily life and business. That mainstream adoption is directly tied to the rise of the smart phone and tablet – before, you had to have a special reader to see the data in the matrix codes, now any camera enabled phone or tablet or smart phone with a bar code app can see their secrets.
You’ve probably started seeing these codes pop up in your local Best Buy and other stores, on name badges at conferences, and around the web on sites like Twitter (I’ve had a QR code on my back ground on Twitter for years – it takes you to Google Place right now, but I change it all the time). They are free to create, completely flexible in what data they can hold, can hold more information than a standard bar code, and can add value to your business right at the point of purchase or contact.
How Do You Get In On The Action?
The choices for where to go online to create your own QR code are vast, so let’s just focus on a few heavy hitters. Just know that you can search online for “QR code maker” and find many, many more. It takes more time to decide what data you want to encode than it does to make and embed or print the QR code itself.
First, visit Google Places (http://places.google.com). If you haven’t claimed your Google Place yet, you should, but that’s a story for another article. Complete your Place information, including links, specials, photos, hours of operation, discounts, reviews and more. Scroll down the right hand column of the page until you see the blue link to create your own QR code. Click to create, the simply either copy the code and embed it onto a web site or print out the QR code for use in stickers, on business cards or a window cling. Note: the white space around each QR code is also part of the code – don’t crop your image!
If a physical location QR code isn’t your style, or if you simply have a virtual business or service you sell online, you may want to use one of the other solutions, such as Kaywa (http://qrcode.kaywa.com), Qurify (http://qurify.com) or YouScan (http://youscan.me). Each one allows you to embed a variety of data, from simple URLs or contact information to data that integrates with applications like Foursquare for automated check ins and other fun activities.
QR codes are so easy to make and so simple to use, people are beginning to get creative with what they have them do upon being scanned. Musicians such as the Pet Shop Boys and DJ Spooky have used them to offer album art for download, they’ve featured in interactive videos by Kylie Minogue, our own Manchester Monarchs have a series of them that download wallpaper images for your phone and computer of various players, they are used to share videos, companies like JetBlue have used them in subway campaigns, museums use them to keep track of kids visiting, and more. They are incredibly versatile, and the limits only lie in your own creativity.
How Do I Read These Codes?
It’s simple to read QR codes when you see them in the wild. Just grab one of the many bar code scanning applications for your iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or camera enabled tablet, install it via your phones marketplace or app store, then point and click. It’s that easy.
Once you aim your app of choice at the QR code, you’ll be taken to an URL or map (most often), given a note or instructions, have a contact added to your phone book, or the wallpaper, video or other special content will simply begin. You don’t have to do anything or learn anything new – if you know how to use your camera on your smart phone and download an app, you are ready to go.
Why Are QR Codes Good For Business?
By making business more interactive and making it easy for customers to get the information they need right when they need it, and keeping your data portable, you are bringing your business forward with the times. People want the information they need to be at their fingertips and QR codes are a quick and simple way to make that happen, at a low cost to the average business. Additionally, QR codes are the first step your business can take toward other developments that are on the horizon, but not yet mainstream, such as Augmented Reality and other types of data sharing and marketing. Why wouldn’t you want your business to be prepared to keep up with rapid technological change?
If you are a retail business such as Best Buy, QR codes are handy for pricing and for sharing specials. They also help customers find product reviews right in the store and make purchase decisions, especially on big ticket items like appliances, computers or furniture. If you are a convention, or a business that does many events and trade shows, QR codes at your booth, on lanyards and badges and other portable goods can help your customer remember you and make you stand out in the crowd. QR codes are also good for crowd control, data harvesting, pattern recognition, shopping habit tracking and much more.
Steps To The Future
Techniques, tactics and tools like QR codes are, like Twitter, Facebook and other options, steps to the future for businesses. Just as the online landscape looks vastly different now than it did in the 90s and throughout the early part of the 00s, the horizon will change once again in as short as 3 years.
Using tools like QR codes now simply makes your company ready to surf the wave of change quickly and efficiently, putting your success in your hands. Being familiar with new tools early on, while a bit scary at first, can make it easier to make rapid transitions from one technology to another within a business, ensuring continued success in a fluid economy.