ICS Magazine

QR Codes: Just How Quickly Can Your Customers Find You?

January 19, 2012

If you’ve paid any attention to trends in the last decade, you’ve probably noticed a dramatic increase in the speed of information exchange among humans.  News and information literally travel at the speed of light now, and have for a generation. 

But as important as speed is, access to data is becoming more and more essential.  This has become a key design factor in the exploding industries of cell phones, tablets, and apps.  These personal technology tools have become an extension of our bodies and brains, feeding us a plethora of social, economical, and personal information on a minute-by-minute basis. 

And as fast as these tools provide us with information, we still want it faster.

QR codes were a natural by-product of this demand for faster access to information.  QR stands for Quick Response, and the name speaks for itself.  In simple terms, a QR code is just a barcode on steroids.  It holds much more information because it is 2-dimensional (think geometry.)  Barcodes have been in use for decades because they drastically simplify the information gathering process for inventory management, and now we’ve expanded that same concept to the rest of the world.

QR codes eliminate the neurological and physiological speed bumps associated with information absorption, including such mundane tasks as reading, typing and even blinking (which I encourage everyone to do more often).  Now if you want to view a website, download a coupon, add contact information or watch a movie trailer, you can skip all the aforementioned brain functions by simply scanning a QR code with your phone - yes, it must be smart and you need an app for that. 

The really savvy companies out there are all over this.  You’ve probably seen QR codes in trendy magazines, on coffee shop menus, or on product labels.  I’ve even heard of a guy whose business card is nothing more than a QR card.  You literally have to scan his card to find out his information. 

Of course, I don’t recommend this drastic a step for you, since much more practical applications exist.

To begin using QR codes, you first need to think about your customer.  Start by accepting the fact that only a small percentage of the population - not to mention your customer base - even knows what they are, much less have the hardware to use them.  Given that fact, what would a tech-savvy customer want to get from your QR code? 

My answer would be some type of immediate interaction.  A link to your website might suffice, but unless your website is interactive itself, this might become a dead end.  I say that simply because brain function is required on the part of the consumer to navigate your website and find the desired interaction.  Don’t think I’m insulting your customers’ intelligence; after all, they do have a smart phone.  Just remember that if they are the type person who will scan a QR code, then they’re looking for immediate results and interaction.  They simply don’t want to take the time to find what you were hoping they would find by navigating a complex data bank.

I recommend that your QR code send customers directly to a specific page on your website that might include a coupon, a monthly special, a video or a newsletter sign-up.  This is all interaction, and it puts the ball in their hands to return the interaction.  They can respond by using the coupon, taking advantage of your special or joining your mailing list because they’re so impressed with you.  I especially like using a video because people love to watch videos on their phone, and it gives you that golden opportunity to speak to them as if you were literally there.

I use two QR codes in my business.  One links to a video about my business that I’ve posted on youtube.  The video covers our services at a high level and shows plenty of cleaning, which should maintain the viewers’ interest.  The code is printed on the back of all company brochures and other marketing materials. 

I’m subtle about it.  It’s not in large print on the front because I know most people aren’t familiar with it, and I don’t want to take away from my primary marketing graphic, which is my logo.  As a side note, make sure the link your code references will never expire.  I trust youtube to be in business for a while so my printed materials should always be relevant.  Linking to your own website is, of course, the safest bet because you have control over the content and link addresses. 

The other QR code contains my personal contact information and is printed on the back of my business card.  Please don’t be disappointed when I tell you the front of my card still contains printed information that requires a much less advanced and un-sexy tool called reading.

Like everything else, QR codes are morphing into more graphically pleasing concepts, which will most likely allow the use of logos imbedded in the graphic.  For now, though, you’ll still look very cool just using the black and white square version. 

Once you make the choice to use QR codes, be smart and efficient about it.  Make your links relevant and useful to your customer, and by all means, test the silly things before printing and distributing.  You can create your very own QR codes on several different websites.  I recommend http://delivr.com/QR-Code-Generator.  Sorry, I’m not going to be so showy as to print a QR code to that link.  You’ll actually have to read it, type it, and blink while the webpage loads. 

Good luck with your transition into the 21st century!