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Are QR Codes The Future Of Marketing?

If you’ve ever visited China, Kapan, or South Korea, then QR codes may not be new to you, but here in the US and in much of Europe, they’re still a relatively novel phenomenon.

Image Credit: Pexels. Free to Use Licence. 

A QR code, also known as a Quick Response Code, is essentially a matrix barcode, a 2D image that can hold information which, when scanned, can be transmitted to the receiving device. Invented in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota, QR codes have been around for some time, but have really only started to be used commercially in the last five years or so. 

How do QR codes work? 

Spend just a few seconds on a QR code generator and you’ll have your very own QR code on your screen - but how does it work? Well, like a barcode, a QR code can hold information, such as a web address or an order to perform a certain function like opening an email. This information can be obtained from the QR code by scanning it with a QR scanner, which nowadays simply means opening up your smartphone camera. For those without the latest smartphone, then QR scanners can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play. 

How can QR codes be used in marketing?

Once marketers realized the capabilities of QR codes it wasn’t long before their use diversified and they started to appear in marketing campaigns, on marketing materials, and in advertising, driving users to a specific web-page and allowing marketers to track open-rates. There are a number of different ways that a QR code can be used in marketing including: 

  • To take customers to additional product information that wouldn’t fit on the product packaging 

  • To bring traffic to a website 

  • To link to marketing videos 

  • To allow customers to directly dial a sales phone number 

  • To enable customers to download an offer or coupon directly to their phone

  • To link through to user manuals 

  • To enable store visitors to sign up to newsletters using their phones 

Why do consumers like using QR codes?

QR codes took off in China, Japan and South Korea because consumers liked to use them. They are a very easy and convenient way to be redirected to additional information, requiring only the smartphone you have in your pocket and are interactive and interesting, incorporating a level of surprise that people like. For brands, QR codes are a way to track previously untrackable offline advertising, providing valuable marketing metrics and enabling them to see what is working and what isn’t. They are also a great way for businesses to stand out from their competitors and to appeal to younger audiences who are looking to interact with forward-thinking companies. 

Are QR codes the future? 

Although QR codes are undeniably cool and have worked well for many businesses, they have one major flaw and that is that they are a one-way exchange of information. When a user scans a QR code, the business gets no information about the user in return, something that may ultimately be the QR code's downfall. If QR codes are the future, then the future is now because NFC (Near Field Communication) could be the new marketing communications tool on the horizon. 

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