QR Codes: What are they and how can YOU use them?

By Mike Eide

What an age we live in. Technology appears to be changing everyday and if you don’t keep yourself in the forefront with it you will fall behind. One of those changes is the way we receive information on the fly. We live in a day of smart phones and instant access to the wealth of knowledge the Internet has to offer right at our fingertips. Which brings me to QR codes, the UPC bar code’s rich uncle.


What is a QR Code?

So, what is a QR code you might ask? Well good question, the QR code actually dates back to prehistoric days when dinosaurs roamed the earth… Yeah you wish it were actually that interesting.

The QR codes origins actually date back to 1994 in the Japanese auto industry. The codes were created because they had faster readability and greater storage capacity over standard UPC bar-codes.

QR code stands for quick response code. It is in the bar-code family as it is referred to as a matrix bar-code (sounds much cooler than it really is) meaning it is a 2 dimensional bar-code. If you look at the pic above you see that QR code can be ready horizontally and vertically and the old UPC code will only ready horizontally.

Data is stored in the QR code in the many black square dots arranged in the square grid on a white background. You can use a smartphone camera combined with a downloadable app to take a picture of the code. The app will then extract the data from the patterns of black and white squares both horizontally and vertically.

What can I do with it…hmmmm?

Now, I know what you are thinking. “Pretty riveting stuff there Mike, but what can I do with it?” Well the uses for this technology are still just scratching the surface. The most common use of a QR code right now is embedding URL links into them. Often if you scan a code you will be directed to a website. It is where you are directing the customer that is the most important thing. This customer was interested in you enough to pull out their phone and scan the code, so you better take them to somewhere where you can track the response of the code (landing page website visits) and that has some sort of call to action (special on furnace cleaning, spring oil change special).

One of the fun things we can use QR codes in our retail store is printing them on our in store signage. You can link the code to a YouTube video about the product in question so the customer can scan and learn more either there or in the future. If we were to include the code on the website we could link it to our digital store front containing videos, pricing, product write-ups and reviews, pricing or any number of different things.

One final thing you can do with a QR code is it can be used for web login on certain sites. Your computer when it scans the code could authorize the website to let you in further into the site based off your computer credentials.

I hope this helps you in further learning what a QR code is and how you might be able to use it in your future. Of course every day there is more and more uses coming for this technology. It is not going away with there being 5 million more scans over the first quarter of 2013 over 2012. Like social media before it, if you are fully able to harness the power of QR codes or mobile engagement as a whole, you are off to a head start over the competition. In what ways does your business or have you seen businesses using QR codes?