QR (Quick Response) codes, in case you haven’t heard the term, are square, matrix-style bar codes that can be read by smartphones and instantly linked to web pages, contact information, images, or anything else online. They are free to create.
Look around and you’ll find QR codes printed on posters, banners, magazines, newspapers, brochures, business cards, T-shirts, mugs, CDs — even emblazoned on the sides of cars.
“When you look at how far and fast they have come in just the last few months, it’s remarkable,” says Aron Ezra, CEO of MacroView Labs, a San Francisco mobile app developer. “A year from now, it’s going to be incredible. They will be very, very prevalent.”
Tanger Outlet Centers plans to use the QR codes in a President’s Day promotion at its 33 centers across the U.S., says Carrie Geldner, senior vice president of marketing. Customers will see the codes in advertising posters at the malls, as well as on Tanger’s Facebook page and in email promotions. Those who scan the codes will receive Tanger’s custom app — plus a free box of chocolate-covered cherries, redeemable at the mall.
Tanger also recently began using QR codes in brochures for its loyalty club. Customers can join instantly by scanning codes at their local outlet center. They then get a digital membership card downloaded to their phones which can be used for merchandise discounts.
It’s a Mobile World Out There
Geldner says focus group research last year showed the upscale outlet chain’s customers were interested in smartphones and apps.
“Whether this interest converts into them using these programs remains to be seen,” she says. But she’s betting it will. “We think it’s fun.”
Marquis Spas in Independence, Oregon, is adding QR codes to an upcoming trade ad, says Creative Director Kerry Kurth, and will also be adding them to business cards.
Kurth also does marketing for a local technical recruiter and has begun using the codes on the backs of salespeople’s business cards, which have been well-received. She is considering adding the code to coffee mugs, T-shirts, and even cars (the company would wrap an ad on a smart car).
Ezra says the rise in smartphones is behind the surging popularity of QR codes. Many smartphones come with QR readers preinstalled. If are reader isn’t already on the phone, consumers can download one for free.
“QR codes are a great shortcut for getting information right away,” says Ezra. “It makes it so much easier to wave your phone in front of something to get the information, instead of having to type a URL.”
Trade shows and conventions can use QR codes outside exhibits or conference rooms to draw visitors with coupon offers or more information about what’s inside. They can also be used for “geo-tagging” or treasure-hunt games, where people must follow the code clues to a location.
Tim Patterson, VP of sales and marketing for Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, Oregon, recommends labeling the codes with some kind of an offer, such as “get 10 percent off.” This gives customers an incentive to point their phones at your code. Also, he says, make sure staff know what QR codes and readers are, so they can help customers use the technology, which — face it — is still unknown to many in the non-techie crowd.
Nonetheless, Patterson sees even his non-tech clients beginning to move toward use of the codes.
“QR codes are definitely moving out of the ‘hipster-tech’ shadows and into the mainstream.”
Agrees Ezra, “I think just on balance it’s a really, really cool technology that’s very easy for small and large businesses to take advantage of.”