By Melissa J Luther
Have you seen those little square images, made up of more little squares, that have been showing up in magazines, newspapers and on Web sites? These are QR codes, and they’ve become the newest way to provide potential customers with additional information about you and your services or products.
QR Code History
QR codes arose out of the need to encode more data than the standard bar code can handle. The bar code can contain up to 20 digits, while a QR code can hold more than 7,000 numbers. It can also handle alphanumeric and binary data, making it much more versatile than a bar code.
QR stands for Quick Response, because they are intended to be decoded quickly. They were originally created by a Japanese company, Denso Wave, and were used in the auto industry to track parts. Over time, other companies began to find additional uses for them.
QR Codes Today
The ubiquity of mobile devices today has led to new uses for the QR code. A phone, or other mobile device, with a camera and special decoding software can “read” the data in the QR code and take whatever action is encoded there. The code may direct the device to:
- Visit a Web site
- Dial a phone number
- Download a file or coupon
- Display additional information, such as contact or product details
These codes are equally useful online and offline. Currently they seem to be used most commonly to encode a URL for users to visit for more information, but as their use grows, so will the information they provide.
Where Can a Business Put QR Codes?
The uses for QR codes appear limited only by your imagination. Because they can hold so much information, they add flexibility to traditional marketing avenues. Consider:
- Business Cards: Encode your contact details so that users can automatically download it to their phones.
- Direct Mail Postcards: Direct recipients to a website or coupon.
- Offline Ads: Provide additional information on your service or product that won’t fit into a small display ad.
- Signs: Again, space is limited, so keep your sign uncluttered by including only your main message and using a QR code to provide additional details.
- Product Packaging: Plenty of consumers want more information about a product they run across in the store. Add a QR code to either direct them to a mobile website with more details, or use the QR code to encode the details directly.
QR codes are still new enough that most people probably won’t use yours, wherever you put them. But, eventually they will understand what they are, and if you already have yours in place, you’ll be ahead of the competition. Also, if your customer base is technologically savvy, they may give you points for being an early adopter. Either way, you win.