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How to Make and Use QR Codes for Your Business and Marketing

Great marketing means always looking for ways to engage and connect with consumers. So, what if you could use one little symbol to provide more product information to consumers, send them directions to your store, show them exclusive content and promotions, and compel them to take action wherever they are? That's what QR codes can help you do.

Quick response codes, known as QR codes, are a powerful way for advertisers to provide their audience a more meaningful interaction with their brand or product.

Since Covid-19 hit, QR codes are everywhere. Consumers are scanning QR codes on menus in cafes, in stores and supermarkets, on packaging and on outdoor advertising.

In fact, QR codes are so ubiquitous these days that a staggering 45% of shoppers used marketing-related QR codes in 2021. In fact, in the two years from 2018 to 2020, QR code usage grew by 96%.

One huge force driving the use of QR codes is smartphone technology. Once upon a time consumers needed to download a special app to scan QR codes, which was a barrier for marketers. Now, most smartphones can scan QR codes simply through the camera. And it's no secret that the easier something is, the more likely consumers are to use it.

Now consider that 85% of adults in the United States use a smartphone, and it's clear why QR codes are becoming the go-to digital marketing trend for businesses of all sizes.

 

What is a QR code?

QR code is short for "Quick Response" code. It is a black and white square-shaped symbol that is scanned with a smartphone or retail point-of-sale QR scanner.

A QR code consists of little squares and typically looks like this:

qr code

Like standard barcodes, QR codes hold data, such as product information, promotions, web links, event details and more.

When the QR code is scanned with a phone or QR code scanner, the data stored in the code is revealed to the user on an app, or it directs them to a website for more information.

QR codes were originally designed by two engineers at Denso Wave in Japan in 1994 for use in the automotive supply chain and manufacturing process for high speed component scanning. Since Denso Wave, marketers have jumped onto the QR code to communicate more information to customers, drive engagement for promotions and campaigns, and build stronger customer relationships.

 

How do QR codes work?

Let's say a consumer sees a QR code on a poster. They take out their smartphone, open the camera and it automatically scans the QR code.

The quick response code is encrypted with data, and the data stored in the QR code is revealed when the code is scanned.

So, if you wanted to promote a competition on your outdoor advertising, you could display a QR code on the ad. When people scan the QR code, the code's data sends them straight to your landing page to enter the competition. Simple!

There are two types of QR code: static codes and dynamic codes.

  • Static codes are hardcoded once created. A static QR code is best used for tasks that don't change, like sharing an email address or contact details.

  • Dynamic codes don’t store the data but redirect the scanner, just like when you share a link to a website. Dynamic QR codes can also lead users to a coupon, social media profile, a PDF, and SMS creation. The best part is you can change the contents or type of dynamic code without needing to create a whole new code. That's why dynamic codes are recommended for marketing campaigns.

 

How to make a QR Code in 8 steps

  1. Select your QR code generator

  2. Choose the type of content you're promoting

  3. Fill in the data

  4. Choose a static code or dynamic QR code

  5. Customize your QR code

  6. Test to make sure the QR code scans

  7. Share and promote your QR code

  8. Track and analyze performance

 

Step 1. Select your QR code generator

Start by selecting your QR code generator. There are lots of online QR code generators that can help you generate legitimate QR codes, which we'll explore below.

The best QR generators let you customize your QR code,, so you can sign a code that's specific to your brand, and give you the tools to track and analyze performance in real-time.

Step 2. Choose the type of content you're promoting

What do you want your QR code to show the user after they scan it?

You can choose from different content types, such as:

  • URL

  • Email or contact details

  • SMS

  • Facebook

  • PDF

  • Vcard

  • App stores

  • Images

 

Step 3. Fill in the data

Once you've decided your content type, enter the information for your campaign.

For example, if you want the QR code to direct users to a URL, enter the URL in the field, like this:

qr code generator data

Source: QR Code Generator

Step 4. Choose a static code or dynamic QR code

Are you using the code for marketing or general business?

The great thing about a dynamic code for marketing is, if something changes mid-campaign, you don't have to pull all of your advertising and start from scratch. 

You can pull up an editable form to modify the data your visitors will receive when they scan the QR code using their camera app. This is a big budget-saver for your campaigns.

The alternative is a static quick response code, which cannot be changed once generated.

Step 5. Customize your QR code

Why settle for a standard quick response code when you can customize your QR code design to fit your brand? For example, you can make your QR code look like your logo and build on your brand awareness. All you need to do is upload your logo to the generator.

Depending on the QR code generator, you can customize your code with colors, adding a logo, adding social media options, and more. 

The key is to ensure that the code is always easy to scan. Otherwise you are just losing customers. That's why some generators won't offer the option to customize the code, because it might compromise the scannability.

qr codes

Source: Esquire

Step 6. Test to make sure the QR code scans

The most important thing when generating a QR code is to make sure it scans. You need to ensure that consumers can easily scan QR codes, and that the codes take them to the content you want them to see.

Use more than one QR scanner to check the code. Test it with an Apple mobile device, android devices, camera app, and QR scanners.

You can also use  the free tool Google Goggles. This takes a picture of the code and tells you what link or item the QR code image “reads to.”

Another great free QR code scanner tool is the app QR Code Reader, which automatically takes you to whatever it “reads.”qr code reader

Source: Apple Apps

Step 7. Share and promote the QR code

Creating QR codes is only one part of the job. You need to make sure people can find QR codes on your collateral and scan them.

Depending on how you are using the QR code, make sure it is clear and easy to find on promotions materials.

qr code poster

Source: QR Code Chimp

Use a strong call to action to ensure people scan the app and know where it will lead them.

The good news is that people are more familiar with QR codes these days, so you don't need to spell out how to scan it. But you should always provide an alternative option for those who fail to scan the code for some reason.

Step 8. Track and analyze performance

With any marketing campaign, tracking and monitoring results is the only way you can improve. If you know how your QR codes are performing, you can see what you need to work on to drive more people to scan and engage with your campaign.

Here  are some thing to measure:

  • How much traffic comes from each QR code?

  • Are users scanning your QR code and taking the next step (e.g. entering the contest) on the landing page? Or are they failing to convert?

  • Are users not scanning your QR codes in the first place?

  • Do some QR code locations and formats perform better than others?

To measure results, you need to include UTM code tracking in your URL A UTM code stands for Urchin Tracking Module, and is a snippet of text that's added to the end of a URL to help you track where traffic comes from. This will help you dive even deeper into the analytics.

 

How to use a QR Code for an effective marketing campaign?

How can you take advantage of QR codes for your business? The brilliance of QR code technology is that it can be used on practically any promotional material to drive engagement and action.

Be inspired by these ways to use QR codes:

  • Use a QR code on a postcard or direct mail for a promotion.

  • Direct B2B clients to your LinkedIn profile or website.

  • Promote a competition on product packaging.

  • Share a digital menu for your cafe, food truck or bar.

  • Entice users to download your new app.

  • Send visitors to a web page with detailed information that wouldn’t fit in an ad or on product packaging.

  • Direct customers to instructional videos for set-up of a product or service.

  • Use the QR code to send a Facebook check-in when scanned

  • Consumers can scan to sign up to an online event.

  • Entice users to subscribe to a podcast or newsletter.

  • Deliver rich augmented reality (AR) content.

 

How to Use QR Codes - 3 Best Practices

It's easy to create QR codes, as you've seen above. Now, you need to make sure you're doing everything you can to engage customers, entice them to scan, and get the best return on your campaigns.

Show your QR code where it's easy for people to see and scan.

Make it easy for your users to scan your codes. If they can't get to the QR code, you can't expect them to scan it. Put quick response codes in places where consumers have enough time and space to scan the code.

qr code marketing

Source: QR Code Chimp

For example, a TV ad typically doesn't give people enough time to get their phone out and scan. Beware of displaying your posters too high or behind obstacles too.

However, if you put a poster in a public bathroom or on a promotion stand on a cafe table, your users have enough time to scan the QR code.  Also, make sure users can access wi fi, so the code seamlessly directs users to the web page or app.

Optimize the landing page for mobile devices.

With a massive number of the US population using smartphones, your website should already be optimized for mobile devices. But it's even more important for QR destination pages.

The vast majority of people will be scanning your code using a mobile device, so if you send them to a page that's not mobile optimized, you are wasting a huge opportunity to engage them.

Make sure the web page makes it as easy as possible to complete your goal - whether that’s downloading an app, entering a contest or subscribing to a newsletter.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Make your web page quick to load

  • Keep form fields to a minimum

  • Include a click to call button if relevant

  • Keep text short and succinct, so it's easy to scan

  • Put the call to action front and center

 

Include a call to action that entices people to scan your QR code.

Speaking of calls to action, always include a call-to-action (CTA) with the quick response code.

People know how they can scan a QR code when they see one, but make sure they know what's on the other side - that is, what's in it for them if they scan.

 

Examples of QR Codes in Marketing

Now you know how QR codes work, how can you use a quick response code in marketing? Take a look at the different ways QR codes are used:

QR Codes for Product Reviews 

Nearly nine out of ten (89%) consumers worldwide make the effort to read reviews before buying products (Trustpilot, 2020). Even more importantly, nearly four in five (79%) consumers say they trust the reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal, 2020).

But collecting customer reviews can be a challenge for businesses. That's where QR codes come in.

By using a quick response code at the point of interaction, you can give customers a quick way to provide a review without any human intervention.

qr code reviews

Source: 99 Designs

Add QR codes to the table at your restaurant or in other physical locations, on product packaging or include a flier in your shipping box.

QR Codes and OOH advertisements

Out of Home advertising is a powerful medium, especially as audiences reconnect and return to outdoor after the pandemic lockdowns.

The main types of out-of-home advertising that work with QR codes are those that are convenient to scan - like transport, airports, bus stops and train stations, and street furniture in high-traffic areas.

Pairing outdoor advertising with QR codes is an effective way to drive consumers to take action. Because they scan using their mobile phone on the go, the best approach is to direct consumers to web pages with your store location details and opening hours, or a short-term promotion that they need to act on fast.

Opening up a new location? Use billboards and banners to drive traffic using a Google Maps QR Code. When scanned on the user's device, your Google Maps location opens with directions to the store.

In Japan, Disney transformed the black and white codes into their lovable colorful Disney characters. The QR codes are instantly recognisable and offer the passing consumer a link to lots of information about the theme park.

Disney-Codes

Generate QR Codes to Drive Loyalty  

According to Juniper, 4 billion mobile-based loyalty cards will be activated in 2022. QR code-based loyalty programs are set to grow by 5.3 billion.

The power of using QR codes to drive loyalty is undeniable.

Simply add a QR code to your promotional material on your restaurant table, or at the point of sale in a store. When scanned, it will take your audience to your loyalty program landing page.

To make it easy for customers to sign up, make sure the landing page is mobile optimized, and only has a few form fields to fill in.

Another option is to use dynamic QR Codes, such as coupon codes, and use customer behavior data to provide and fine-tune timely offers for your audience.

Receipts are brilliant real-estate to promote loyalty programs and coupons using QR codes too.

ideal-qr-code-receipt-netherlands-800x450Source: Mobile Transaction

In Spain, Danone, a multinational food company, launched a loyalty program using QR codes. By adding QR codes on all its products, the brand encourages people to sign up for the loyalty program for benefits.

QR Codes for Competitions 

One of the most popular ways of using QR codes is for competitions.

Take this 2020 campaign by brewer Carlsberg:

A simple “Buy, Scan & Win” campaign gave Carlsberg drinkers the chance to win a limited number of signed Liverpool FC jerseys and special-edition merchandise. Participants simply needed to scan a QR code on the packaging to be eligible to win. 

Provide vouchers and coupons

Everyone loves a good deal. So, if you want to engage your customers and drive loyalty, make it easy for them to access coupons and promotions via a QR code.

In 2022, a staggering 5.3 billion QR-coded coupons are expected to be redeemed using mobile devices, according to Juniper Research

QR codes can be posted on social media profiles, on point-of-sale at a retail store or in flyers through direct mail.

After scanning the code, the consumer is led to a coupon either online or in an app.

Burger King did this during the pandemic lockdown. The campaign included three commercials advertising a free Whopper sandwich when customers use the Burger King app. To direct viewers to the app, each ad included a floating QR code that directed users to the Burger King app, where they could download a free Whopper coupon.

Share rich experiences

Scanning a QR code can unlock much more than just a webpage. Marketers today are using QR codes to embed rich experiences, such as augmented reality previews of products that are not available on the showroom floor.

For example, you could walk into a store and find a pair of shoes you like but they don't have the color you want. Scanning the little square barcode could direct you to a digital experience that shows you how the shoes look in a range of other colors and direct you to order online.

This engages the consumer with your brand, while also helping convert them on the spot.

Walmart is including QR codes in a new store design. Through the strategic use of QR codes and digital screens, customers can scan QR codes to find additional products, learn about other services that Walmart offers, and order online, which helps the brand leverage the growing ecommerce trends.

Direct customers to social media pages

Marketers are always looking for ways to grow their social media fanbase. Including QR codes in your campaigns gives you a powerful tool to recruit followers who are already engaged with your brand - whether they have bought a product or visited your store or restaurant.

The most basic way is to link a QR code to your social media profiles. Simply go to your social media profile, copy the URL, paste it into a QR code generator, and generate a code.

Now you have a social media QR code to promote your business.

Scan QR codes on packaging and in shipping boxes

With 7 in 10 shoppers saying that the design of a product’s packaging drives their decision to buy, it's important to make sure your product packaging isn't packed full of text and overwhelming information.

That is where QR codes can help. These codes are a cost-effective way to give consumers the information they need without compromising stunning packaging design.

By using QR codes in shipping boxes and on packaging, you can also engage customers with interesting and informative content, such as recipes, how to recycle the packaging, videos showing where the product came from, instructions for use, and more.

QR Codes on tables and counters

QR codes in retail stores and hospitality can deliver an exceptional user experience when placed on tables and counters.

In restaurants and bars, people can scan to see the menu, order, see promotions and access loyalty programs.

qr code restaurant

Source: Restaurant Manifesto

This was a huge benefit to businesses during the pandemic with the rise of no-contact ordering. Instead of handing out menus, a QR code on the table redirects diners to your menu where they can order in an instant. One app that allows you to do this is Square, available in the US, UK and Australia.

QR codes for contactless payments

QR codes for digital payments took off during the pandemic. In fact, the contactless payment market is predicted to hit USD $6.25 trillion by 2028.

With QR code-based payments, customers can scan a QR code and pay their bill directly from their mobile device. Restaurant and store staff don't need to touch credit cards or cash, or ask for payment information. It's completely contactless.

The use of QR codes not only provides a faster, safer transaction, but can allow retailers to include digital receipts and customer rewards in one single action.

Starbucks uses QR codes in its stores as a form of cashless mobile payment. But that's not all - when a Starbucks QR code is scanned, users are directed to a mobile-optimized page where they can find the latest Starbucks news and get updated on new products and seasonal offers.

Dunkin’ Donuts and 7-Eleven have also embedded QR codes into their payment apps. Several retailers, including Lacoste and Zara, use QR codes to send personalized mobile offers in-store, link to digital shopping through televised ads or to promote items in shop windows.

 

Best QR Code Generators

There are tons of QR code generators out there making it easy to create your own custom QR codes.

Some generators let you create basic data QR codes for free, and lock the more advanced features behind a paid plan.

If you’re serious about incorporating QR codes in your campaigns, consider investing in a plan that lets you access live performance data on where scanners are based, what operating system they use, when they scan, and more. This will let you optimize your campaigns based on behaviour and location.

Here are some of our favorite QR code generators:

1. Kaywa

Kaywa is a user-friendly, no-fuss QR code generator that lets you create codes for coupons, URLs, and contact information.

With Kaywa you can create an unlimited number of static QR Codes free of charge, or sign up for a plan to generate multiple QR  codes that are dynamic.

Best feature:

Kaywa makes it easy to track analytics for your marketing campaign. You get access to the latest data on who used your QR code, where, and when.

2. GOQR.me

Another basic QR code generator, GOQR.me is best for short URLs.

Its QR code management platform QR-Server lets you use dynamic QR codes. You can also download your codes in a wide range of formats, including: PNG, JPG/JPEG, GIF, SVG, EPS, and PDF.

Best feature:

GOQR.me gives a  a live preview of your QR code in real-time, which makes it easy to add finishing touches to your marketing campaign.

3. Free QR Code Generator by Shopify

Shopify’s QR code generator lets you create a QR code and direct it to any web URL, phone number, SMS or plain text with a single click. You don't have to own a Shopify store to use this free tool.

Best feature:

You can create your code in just one click.

4. Visualead

Visualead takes QR codes to the next level with a range of creative templates and tools. So if you want to create a one-of-a-kind QR code that matches your brand, this is the best tool for the job.qr code generator

Best feature:

Make your QR code stand out by uploading any image or choosing a template design from their gallery.

5. QR Stuff

QR Stuff lets you easily create a QR code for almost any type of data: YouTube videos, invitations, and even bitcoin information. You don't have to create an account, but for full functionality and unlimited scans, we recommend it.qr code data type

Best feature:

The free QR codes won't stop working 14 days later. They don't expire and are completely ad-free.

Conclusion

As people get more familiar with QR code scanning in day to day life, there's a huge opportunity for marketers to leverage the tool to reach, engage and drive loyal customers.

The best way to think about QR codes is as an extension to your digital marketing activity. And as with all digital marketing campaigns, the most important thing is to track and optimize your campaigns.

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