Little white ‘data cube labels’ are appearing everywhere.
The problem is that few people really know what they really are, how to use them, why they would use them, or what types of business applications they have.
So what is a QR code?
In a nutshell, QR stands for “Quick Response” – it is a two dimensional square barcode that can be read by a variety of devices (camera phones, digital readers, etc)
A big advantage of the QR code compared to a regular barcode is that it can stores hundreds of digits worth of information, which allows it to provide website addresses or full contact information.
How do you read a QR Code?
New smart phones come pre-installed with QR code readers. If your phone doesn’t have one installed, try Google Goggles.
Once you have the QR code reader installed, simply activate the application and take a quick snapshot of the data label with your camera.
How Do You Create a QR Code?
The technology for creating a QR code is free. If you are a developer, you can integrate this technology into nearly any application.
For everyone else, there are dozens of free web services that will create a QR code for you.
My favorite is bit.ly
Bit.ly gives you a few simple and very effective perks (for free)
- it provides a URL shortening service in addition to QR codes. That way you can take http://barryhurd.com/2011/02/what-is-a-qr-code/ and convert it to http://bit.ly/gIuwGN.qr for easier sharing.
- it provides usage analytics. If you are going to use QR codes you need to know IF they are used, when they are used, and segment ways of improving them for your business.
- it combines usage of both short URL and QR – either http://bit.ly/gIuwGN or http://bit.ly/gIuwGN.qr works (add .qr to any bit.ly link for a QR code)
What information can a QR code contain?
The possibilities are pretty much endless… to the extent that you can encode roughly 4,296 characters.
For a business professional, that could be every piece of your contact information and a good bio statement.
For a retail store, that could be all the product information, as well as ‘like minded’ products they could buy.
(think about it… refills, extra accessories, subscriptions, help desk.)
Where Can You Use a QR Code?
There are plenty of places a QR code can be used, some examples:
- on your business card: contact information, personal e-mail, bonus items, etc.
- on a t-shirt: stop handing out cards, simply ask them to scan you!
- on a product
- on your car
- on your print collateral
What other things can you do with QR codes?
There are several variations of QR codes on the market. If you want to go ‘full tech’ you can try Microsoft Tags. Microsoft Tags enables you to have a variety of extra options that include branding and image control (rather than black and white, you can use an image or logo!)
You can also merge human nature with QR codes. Think about entertaining and competitive ways to implement QR codes.
- If you have a party or event, tag multiple items with QR codes containing clues or prize information.
- If you use them on a business card, think about handing out a “golden ticket” or teaser for follow-up to scan the code.
What creative use of QR codes have you seen?
UPDATE (Thanks to @Tosolini for mentioning this information)
Below is a very comprehensive 95 page breakdown of QR codes, including examples and some current trends.