I keep hearing about QR codes…what’s a QR Code?

Everyone is familiar with barcodes (or UPC) and that they are used to scan an item. Most commonly used in retail stores, barcodes tell the computer the price of the item and update the store’s database on how many of the items have been sold, how many remain in the store, etc. They have been used commercially since 1966 and we see them every day.

But a QR code…what is that? Now we see them everywhere. Although relatively new in the U.S., QR Codes have been widely used in Japan since 1994. Still a type of barcode, QR stands for “Quick Response”. This matrix barcode is designed to be read by smartphones and to provide users with information quickly.

So, the next time you see a QR code, maybe on your ketchup bottle or on a real estate sign, “scan” it with your smartphone with a free app you can download through your app store. It actually uses the camera in your phone to take a picture of the code, instead of scanning it with an optical scanner like a barcode reader at the supermarket. Once scanned, it takes you to a website or email where you can sign up for a contest, gather information on that beautiful brick rancher for sale or even get the latest coupons from your favorite store. They can also link to someone’s v-card so that you can save it into your address book on your phone, and you don’t have to type a single letter or remember someone’s phone number! All a little crazy when you think about it.

At Synapse, we used a QR Code for a promotion. We had our staff wear t-shirts to a Lancaster Chamber event. The t-shirts said “Scan Me to Win an iPad2” and had a large QR Code on the back. Let me tell you, they created quite a buzz! Not everyone knew what a QR Code was before the event, but everyone knew after. I mean, who doesn’t want to win an iPad?

Other ways QR Codes can be used in print to connect customers with websites via a mobile device are:

• Movie posters can link theatre goers to a movie trailer
• A gym newsletter can link members to class schedules
• Concert venues can direct patrons to buy tickets online
• Retail stores can use QR Codes in direct mail to link customers to a secret sale coupon or to enter giveaways
• Grocery stores can use connect customers to recipes that include items featured in their weekly specials flier and so much more! The opportunities are endless!

With the rapid growth of mobile apps and interactive websites, QR codes are a quick and easy (and did I mention free to generate?!) way to get in touch with your clients or reach new prospects without ever meeting or even speaking to them. QR Codes can drive traffic to your website, add addresses to your database and offer promotions or value-added services to current or potential customers. It is the new “cool thing”, so take advantage of it – QR codes are a fantastic and simple-to-use technology!

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