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What are QR Codes and why use them for marketing

What are QR codes

QR codes are all around us, from a menu code at your favorite restaurant to an ad at your bus stop. They are minimalist yet versatile codes used for marketing businesses and brands, helping to strengthen the connection between consumers’ physical and digital spaces.

With this in mind, you’ll definitely want to start incorporating QR codes into your own marketing strategy to provide customers with the latest and most relevant information about your product or service. While the first step in QR code marketing is to create your own code with a QR code generator, this article will explore some practical ways to enhance your next campaign using QR codes.

What are QR codes?

Invented in 1994 by a Japanese automotive company to allow for quick component scanning during manufacturing, QR codes are a type of barcode that allow users to experience a touchless informational or monetary transaction.

QR codes work by encoding data into a grid of black and white squares. Scanners interpret the pattern of squares to extract the encoded information, such as a web link or text. The information can then be accessed or processed by the device scanning the QR code.

QR codes can be scanned and understood by any type of smartphone device, providing businesses with a fast and direct way to guide users to take an immediate course of action. This is why marketers are incorporating these encrypted square shaped codes into more marketing ideas and advertising strategies than ever.

What are the different parts of a QR code

A QR code (Quick Response code) comprises several key components that enable it to store and convey information efficiently. These components include:

  • Finder patterns: These are the square patterns located at three corners of the QR code, helping scanners detect and orient the code correctly.

  • Alignment patterns: These are smaller square patterns inside the QR code that assist scanners in adjusting focus and alignment for clearer reading, especially in larger QR codes.

  • Timing patterns: These are alternating black and white lines surrounding the QR code's data area, providing timing information to the scanner to determine the size and shape of the modules (black and white squares) within the code.

  • Quiet zone: This is the margin of white space surrounding the QR code, ensuring that it remains distinct and scannable even when placed against backgrounds or in environments with visual clutter.

  • Data modules: These are the black and white squares forming the actual encoded data within the QR code. The arrangement and pattern of these modules represent the information stored, whether it's a web link, text, contact details, or other data types.

  • Format information: This section stores details about the QR code's error correction level, mask pattern and other formatting parameters, enabling scanners to decode the data accurately.

  • Version information: In larger QR codes, this section provides additional details about the QR code's version, defining its size and capacity for storing data.

Types of QR codes

QR codes for digital payments

In recent years, QR codes have played a crucial role in revolutionizing the digital wallet industry. Some of the world’s top payment apps, including China’s Alipay and PayPal, use QR codes to stay competitive amid a global shift to go cashless and meet the evolving needs of a tech savvy target audience.

Making payments via QR codes is very quick compared to other modes of payment. At a store or online, a user scans the QR code on their phone thereby launching a payment screen. Once they confirm the payment, it only takes a few seconds until the purchasing process is complete.

QR codes for shopping

QR codes have also found fanfare in many restaurant ordering systems and retail marketing. In the United States, half of full-service restaurant operators now offer QR code menus, according to the National Restaurant Association, as reported by The New York Times.

On the retail side of business, QR codes are paving the way for brands to create new entry points to their target market. One subtle and effective example of QR code marketing can be found in most sneakers. Here, take a moment to inspect the tongue of your Adidas and read the stitched tag inside. You might find a QR code printed on it. That’s because the American shoe manufacturer, in conjunction with Spotify, has elaborated a successful small business marketing strategy for the release of the Boost HD line. That QR code links directly to a custom-made playlist based on wherever you are geographically, ensuring you stay connected to these brands on the move.

QR codes for shopping

Why QR codes are gaining popularity now

With billions of people gaining access to high speed internet and smartphones, according to data, QR codes are ubiquitous in many parts of the world. Alongside Apple’s iOS 11 update that enabled iPhones to recognize and scan QR codes, Android smartphone makers are doing the same, too. Hence, nearly every type of smartphone holder has steadily welcomed QR codes into their daily lives.

This may explain why QR codes are being quickly adopted by more types of businesses over time. Business owners understand that by integrating a QR code for mobile payments or purchase orders, they can greatly enhance a customer’s shopping experience. Not only do people prioritize having touchless transactions, they also want to get to information faster. QR codes bridge that gap between digital and physical spaces, proving more relevant in the past year.

Ways to use QR codes in marketing

There are many reasons to use QR codes as a marketing tool. You can connect instantly with customers, collect first-hand data and perform market segmentation thereafter, as well as add QR codes to any advertising campaign, from marketing emails to billboards.

Take the example of Coinbase, the cryptocurrency app, which ran a successful Super Bowl commercial with just a bouncing QR code on a black screen. Viewers were given a full 60-seconds to scan the code, sending them to redeem $15 worth of free bitcoin for signing up via the link. Coinbase took a chance on QR code marketing and reached a turning point in ad history. A reported 20 million people visited the company’s landing page in a single minute.

Here are other ways and benefits of using QR codes for your business:

01. Increase web traffic

Creating a website is essential to any marketing strategy for your business. Once you have it, you can drive customers there through a QR code placed on a flyer, ad, email or packaging — just to name a few. When they scan the code, they will be taken directly to your web page. You can do the same for a landing page.

Before setting up your QR code plan, you need to get a few things in order. Think about which page of your website you want to direct people to, and what you want them to do once they are there. That way, you can formulate a QR code campaign that addresses all these questions. Finally, you can use our QR code generator to create a customized QR code that fits your marketing needs.

QR codes

02. Promote your app

You’ve created an app for your business, such as a Wix Owner app to manage and grow your operations. But you’ve yet to promote it to the fullest extent and down the marketing funnel. That is, unless you stamp every single flyer, marketing email, poster and visible piece of promotional content with a QR code so that customers go straight to the app store and download it on the spot.

03. Convert more sales

A QR code coupon is a virtual coupon that is delivered via the scanned code. In basic marketing, incentives are an effective way to encourage customers to use your products or services. Once you’ve created your QR code coupon, you can test it out by running limited offers and deals that will attract new customers and reward loyal ones. You may also want to hire a freelancer who can design your QR code coupon so that it looks good but can easily adapt to different sized devices.

04. Locating your business

For brick-and-mortar shops, you can use QR codes to help customers place your location on the map. Simply add your QR code to your website, social media pages and any promotional content like posters and flyers.

Users will be able to scan the code and be directed to either Google Maps or another type of navigation app to your physical address. This makes it easier for them to locate your business and get to you.

QR codes for locating your business

05. Get product reviews

QR codes can help generate more customer reviews. After you create business cards, design your business website, or craft your business email signature, you can make it more effective by adding a QR code that encourages customer engagement. But first, you’ll want to choose which type of review would benefit your business the most. A rating QR code and a feedback QR code are just two examples that can help connect with your audience..

Rating QR codes are the fastest way to get feedback. Once customers scan it, they can add their rating - from a range of 1 to 10 - and you’ll get a copy of the result sent to your email. You can design your poll so that people have the option to leave an emoji-based rating, thus requiring little effort on their part.

Feedback QR codes differ in that they provide you with more detailed insights from customers. You can use Google Forms to create a full survey and plug in its URL into the QR code generator to finish. When someone scans this unique QR code, they will be taken directly to your questionnaire.

Are QR codes safe to use?

QR codes themselves are generally safe to use but like any technology, they can be exploited if the proper precautions aren't taken. QR codes can contain various types of data, such as website URLs, text, contact information or even executable code. The safety of them depends on what they link to and how they are used.

One risk is malicious QR codes that link to phishing websites or malware. Scanning these codes can compromise your device's security or lead to identity theft. It's essential to verify the source and destination of QR codes before scanning them, especially if they're from unknown or suspicious sources.

QR codes safety best practices

  • Use a reputable QR code scanner app that includes security features to detect malicious codes.

  • Avoid scanning QR codes from untrusted sources or locations, especially those found in public places or on random websites.

  • Check the URL before visiting a website linked by a QR code to ensure it's legitimate and secure (using HTTPS).

  • Regularly update your device's operating system and security software to protect against vulnerabilities.

  • Be cautious of QR codes received via email, text messages or social media, as they could be used in phishing attacks.

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