1. QR Codes Can Store a Variety of Data
A traditional 1D UPC barcode can store up to 30 numbers, while a QR code can store up to 7,089 numbers.
The additional storage capacity accommodates a variety of data beyond numbers:
- Telephone number (Phone call)
- SMS/MMS message
- Email (Send message)
- Contact entry (vCard or meCard)
- Calendar entry (vCalendar)
Storing a hyperlink presents a myriad of possibilities beyond just loading a web page — play a video, download a mobile app, check-in on Foursquare, update a Twitter status, “Like” a Facebook page, display map directions, and more.
2. QR Codes Can be Placed in and on Nearly Any Location
Once the QR code is created, it can be printed on nearly any surface and location — postcards, business cards, posters, vehicle magnets, yard signs, brochures, and more. This enables you to drive traffic and interaction from anywhere. QR codes excel at bringing non-digital media to life. Your print campaign is now interactive!
Keep in mind the location must be easily scannable. Plastic packaging can reflect light. Lighting can cast shadows, and hillsides and subways can kill connectivity. Consider all contextual factors that could impact the scanning experience.
3. Mobile Barcode Scanning is on the Rise
- QR code scanning outnumbered 1D (UPC) scans in Q1 2011.
– Scanbuy’s Q1 2011 Trend Report
- Mobile barcode scanning grew 1,600 percent in the year 2010.
– ScanLife’s 2010 Trend Report (PDF)
- QR barcode scanning was up 1,200 percent in the second half of 2010.
– Mobio’s Naked Facts Report
- 22 percent of the Fortune 50 have already used mobile barcodes.
– Burson-Marsteller Report
QR codes can be used for nearly any function (logistics, advertising, customer service, etc.) for B2B and B2C across a variety of industries:
- Best Buy uses QR codes on in-store price tags for quick access to online reviews.
- Real estate agents use QR codes on “for sale” signs providing prospective buyers access to virtual tours.
- Libraries are using QR codes to facilitate learning via interactive scavenger hunts.
4. QR Isn’t the Only Type of 2D Barcode
The most popular 2D barcode formats are QR code, DataMatrix, ScanLife EZcode, and Microsoft Tag (Tag).
There are several key differences in these code formats. ScanLife EZcode and Microsoft Tag are proprietary formats only decodable by their tools, while QR and DataMatrix formats are open standard. The open standard format is why we have chosen the QR code as our standard.
A Google Trends analysis of these QR codes shows “QR code” dominates by far from a search popularity perspective. QR has become a common term used to reference a 2D barcode (2D code, mobile tag, mobile barcode, etc.) even when codes are technically a different format. Even @MicrosoftTag uses the #QRcode hashtag on Twitter.
5. Tools to Read QR codes
To read QR codes you’ll need to download a reader for your phone. Because of the open standard for QR codes, dozens of reader apps are available. (DataMatrix is usually supported on most QR readers.) Some mobile handsets come with a reader app pre-installed. Note:Microsoft Tag and ScanLife EZcode can only be decoded by their respective reader apps. Some available readers are:
|Reader App||Code Formats||Download Link
(from your mobile phone)
|I-Nigma||QR, DataMatrix, UPC||i-nigma.com|
|AT&T Code Scanner||QR, DataMatrix, UPC||scan.mobi|
|ScanLife||EZcode, QR, DataMatrix, UPC||getscanlife.com|
|Optiscan||QR, UPC (also generates codes)||Optiscan|
RedLaser and AT&T Code Scanner also have geolocation features for local price comparison shopping.
Also, a quick search in iTunes reveals no less than 238 results for QR code readers.
6. Keep Codes Simple
When generating your QR codes, you want to keep it short and simple. For example: a long URL results in a complex code. If the code is too complex, some phones mat not be able to read it as well due to limitations of the camera and lens.
The two codes above take you to a Google search for “white iPhone“. The one on the left is the URL of the search result. The QR code on the right has been shortened with Google’s URL shortener, goo.gl. The result is the code on the right is less complex and therefore is able to be read by more phones than the code on the left. It is always best to use the URL-shortener of your choice to shrink hyperlinks. Some popular URL shorteners are:
Warning: Small, complex QR codes are the biggest mistake currently being made by marketers. Smartphone cameras with resolution less than 4-megapixels can’t scan a QR code smaller than about 1″x1″. Moreover, without the auto-focus (AF) camera feature, a complex QR code will have the same scanning issue, even if the code is larger. Unscannable codes kill and delay the adoption rate for QR code campaigns.
Tip: Always provide a back-up (i.e. hyperlink, SMS text message, etc.) option for users to retrieve info within the code. A back-up enables non-smartphone users to also participate.
7. Track Scanning with Analytics
URL-shorteners and web analytics should go hand in hand. For comprehensive scan tracking, you’ll want to use a service like Google Analytics to track all of your activity. Analytics are a great way to look at what codes get scanned, how users navigate your mobile site, device stats, location of users and more. DigitalDept.com provides analytics with all of our mobile plans.
8. Qr Code Content Should Provide Special Value for the Customer
It’s work to scan a barcode, so users have higher expectations as to what content they will find. Reward the user with discounts, exclusive content, or useful tips relevant to the code’s context. Consider scenarios that leverage smartphone features (email, SMS, phone call, video, map, apps, etc.) to save the user time.
For example, including a QR code on a business card that links to contact information would be a lot easier than the user manually entering the contact record. In contrast, a QR code that links to a traditional website homepage adds limited value and on some phones will not be displayed properly.
9. Consumers Need Guidance to Scan QR Codes
The variety of code types, readers, and different terminology is confusing to consumers. Nielsen Company estimates that only 40 percent of U.S. mobile devices are smartphones as of Q1 2011, growing to almost 50 percent by Q3 2011. That means there are a lot of smartphone rookies that barely know how to use their phone, much less distinguish differences in mobile barcode formats and reader apps. As QR codes are in their infancy here in the U.S., it’s best to include a visual with your QR code to help users understand what the code does. We include this image with all of our codes:
10. Testing Scannability is Imperative.
Before you mass print or distribute barcodes be sure to test for scannability. Testing factors:
- Smartphone cameras (resolution/auto-focus)
- Types of phones
- Reader apps
- Scan context (i.e. lighting, shadows, surfaces)
- Scan distance
- Scan timing
To ensure campaign success, consider consulting with a mobile barcode marketing expert, especially if it’s your first time running a mobile barcode campaign. Technology, trends, and tools in this arena are rapidly changing. A few hours of expert consulting can bring your team up to speed, help optimize campaigns for success, and avoid unnecessary embarrassment for poor implementation.
ProSourcePrinting.com provides a managed solution that connects your customers to mobile specific content through print, email and signage. We’ll build a mobile web site that is consistent with your brand and business image. And once it’s up and running you can use multiple QR codes to direct your client to code specific content. The content is delivered to them instantly! No more waiting, no lost customers due to a better opportunity, and it’s trackable!