Should Your Business Use 2D Barcode Technology?

This year 2D barcode technology is poised to become more widespread, with more and more businesses jumping on the bandwagon and using it to market their company and sell products. But should you?

Already popular in Asia, 2D barcodes are pixelated squares that represent data such as a web URL or other contact information. Scan it with your smartphone, using apps such as RedLaser or ScanLife, and it is translated for you. These codes are useful when you’re out and about and need an easy way to access information — you don’t have to waste time navigating the web or typing a long web address for a particular destination.

The most popular kind of 2D barcode technology is the QR code — short for quick response code — but others exist, such as Microsoft Tags. Though they look similar, the different kinds of 2D barcodes sometimes require proprietary technology to read them, but other versions offer better customization and other features like tracking capability.

If you’re ready to plow ahead, know that it’s early yet for 2D barcode technology in the United States. Only about 1 percent of all U.S. cell phone users and 5 percent of smartphone users have tried it, according to a report by Forrester Research last fall. The bulk of 2d barcode users are young members of Generation X and Generation Y, have high incomes, and own an Android phone or iPhone, the report said.

At the same time, this year could be a tipping point: QR scanning traffic has increased 4,549 percent since early last year, according to Mobio, which develops 2D bar code technology. MGH, a Baltimore marketing agency, also found that 32 percent of smartphone owners say they have scanned a QR code. It also said that 70 percent of smartphone users say they plan to scan a QR code again or for the first time.

The good news is QR codes are very easy to produce: Sites such as RedLaser or QR-Code Generator can produce a QR code for you in seconds. For a more thought-out campaign, you can also tap services such as SquareShare, a tool that helps businesses create QR code campaigns.

One of the biggest mistakes so far, experts say, is that many early QR code implementations haven’t been compelling for users: They lead to broken links or boring sites and there’s been little incentive for people pull out their cell phones and scan the code.

More successful campaigns have incorporated coupons, discounts, prizes and scavenger hunts into their codes. Among those who have scanned a QR code, according to MGH, 53 percent did so to access a coupon or discount, 52 percent to access additional information, 33 percent to enter a sweepstakes, 26 percent to sign up to receive more information, and 24 percent to access video.

Think about how you can leverage this technology not just to make access easier for your customers, but to give them something extra.

About Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a business and technology freelance writer in San Francisco. Reach out to her at ellenleeonline@gmail.com.
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