What Is A QR Code And How Can It Be Used In Internet Marketing?

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You may have noticed small, square, black and white images appearing on all sorts of printed things you have seen over the past year. These are called QR codes, and they are a relatively new innovation in online marketing.

A QR code can be printed onto anything, from an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, to a flyer, or the packaging or label on a product. It basically functions like a barcode. A piece of software that is able to scan a QR code can decode it to a URL, so that when it is scanned it can take the user straight to any website the creator of the QR code chooses.

OK, that is all well and good, but who carries a barcode scanner around with them? Well, lots of people. Using the combination of the camera on your smartphone and one of the many bespoke QR reader apps available, you can quickly scan QR codes you see on the go and have them take your smartphone’s browser instantaneously to the related site.

There are almost limitless applications for this type of code. You could use it to link from a small, cheap newspaper ad to a much richer and more appealing ad on your website or Facebook fan page (which of course costs you little or nothing to create), or from the packaging on one of your products through to an online voucher which gives the customer money off of their next purchase. You can use it to provide a lot of information when you only have a small space, such as a tag on some clothing you are selling, to print on.

You can even come up with creative and innovative ways to use it like treasure hunt type things, where people have to find a set of your QR codes in different places to gain access to some fun content or a special offer. For people with good ideas, it can be a really great way to engage customers and also a good way to integrate any traditional print media campaigns you are doing with your online marketing, to create a really neat converged approach and great brand impact.

QR code technology is reasonably new on the market, but despite the fact that to some people it can feel a little gimmicky, uptake has so far been incredibly good – a survey conducted back in February 2011 by leading marketing and business intelligence analysts MGH reported that 53% of all smartphone users in the United States had already obtained a QR code reader for their device and were actively using the QR codes they found, in some cases even to go to checkout pages and make purchases (this is another great use – on a consumable product, you can give the user an easy way to order more by putting a QR code on the box that goes straight through to a page where they can buy).

The existing user base is only likely to expand as QR codes become more widely seen and smartphones and tablet devices like iPads become even more ubiquitous than they are right now.

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