QR Codes: What They Are and How to Use Them – A SPN Exclusive Article

spn_exclusiveWhat’s a QR code?

A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is machine readable and designed to be read by smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, a URL, or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. The QR code was designed to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. (Source: Wikipedia)

You can view an image of QR code here.

Editor’s Note: You can also visit www.sitepronews.com to view and scan the QR Codes near the bottom of our homepage.

Basically, a QR code is a sophisticated bar code. So what makes QR codes different than the typical bar codes you see on food products and other items?

Typical bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix barcodes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information. (Source: How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business)

In fact, it’s their ability to hold significantly more information, as well as their user-friendliness which makes QR codes practical for individuals and businesses of all sizes.

QR codes can be scanned and read by camera-equipped smartphones via software that’s already installed on your phone, or with an application that you download such as Lynkee Reader or i-nigma Reader, which are compatible with a wide variety of modern smartphones including iPhone, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson, HTC, Motorola and Nokia. The readers/scanners give smartphone users the ability to read a QR code without special equipment.

For example, you could walk into a store, use your smartphone to scan an item that has a QR code on it, and have immediate access to the information.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention proprietary technology. These are closed-end solutions that are tied to specific reader/scanner applications, limiting their distribution. For example, Microsoft Tags. Conversely, QR codes, which are an open-source technology, can be created and scanned using a variety of mobile apps, giving you much greater flexibility.

Popular for many years in Japan, in the last year or so, QR codes have started to gain traction in the U.S. In fact, according to a report by Mobio Identity Systems, QR code usage increased by nearly 4600 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the U.S. That’s not just a huge jump, that’s a quantum leap!

Following are 10 ways you can use QR codes to promote your business:

1. Increase Website Sales. Did you know QR codes can lead to specific URL’s? You can create codes that are specific to certain products on your site. For example, new or slow-moving products – or new product launches.

2. Build Your E-mail Subscriber List. You can build your e-mail subscriber list by creating a link to your e-mail signup form. Just make sure you give people a compelling reason to subscribe to your newsletter. Just like you don’t like having your time wasted on trivial pursuits, neither do others.

3. Business Cards. Rather than overload your business card with a ton of information, you can just include the bare minimum, then create a QR code that leads people to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn pages, etc.

4. Contests, Discounts, Sweepstakes and Giveaways. These are a great hook and can be very effective when used in conjunction with QR codes. For example, you can create promotions that are specific to the QR codes. You can place these codes in your advertisements or post them on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, where they have the possibility of going viral.

5. Direct Mail. I just read an article titled Why There’s a Direct Mail QR Code Explosion Happening Now that says the U.S. Postal Service is basically paying advertisers to use QR codes. If you use direct mail to promote your business, you should definitely look into it.

According to the article, now through the end of August, the USPS is giving bulk mailers a discount on their postal rate if they include a visible QR code on their direct mail pieces. Obviously, there are some rules. For example, in order for the mailer to get the postal discount, the codes have to be relevant to the DM piece and not just some random link in order for the mailer to get the postal discount. It appears a lot of the big direct mail marketers are taking advantage of the discount.

6. E-courses. Are you an expert at something? You can create a QR code that generates an e-mail that instructs your autoresponder to automatically start sending daily, weekly or monthly e-mails that contain course lessons and other pertinent information.

7. Flyers. Yes, people still use flyers to promote their business. For example, suppose you own a restaurant. You could create a QR code that goes directly to a URL that gives a discount on a meal and directions to your restaurant.

8. Scratch and Win Cards Promotion. Have you ever seen how excited people get when they’re scratching one of those cards? Even if they don’t win, they’re excited by the mere possibility “they could win!” You could add to their excitement by making them scan the card to see if they’ve won.

9. Free Downloads. If you use e-books or software to promote your business, you could use QR codes to distribute them. When customers scan the code, give them a free e-book or software download. You could also offer customers the opportunity to receive future specials if they sign up for your newsletter. Now that’s incentive!

10. Customer Service Help. You could use QR codes to give customers more information about your product or service. Create a QR code that leads to a FAQ page where customers can get answers to their questions via email or live chat. You can also give customers a “heads up” on future products.

If you are interested in generating and distributing your own QR code, you can do so at: http://qrcode.kaywa.com.

David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com

About the author


David Jackson


Click here to post a comment
  • Spot on with where QR codes can be used effectively and get good results. You have hit the nail directly.. Thanks for the share…

    Online Business Virtual Assistant

  • David; your excellent articles never cease to amaze me, and I thank you for this article as I have been wondering for months what that icon was on numerous websites … now I know!

  • Very good article on QR Codes David.

    I have been using them for my customers websites and promotion material for over a year now and they love them.

    My customers range from restaurants to heating and air. They use them from menus to stock control.

    Thanks and again for sharing your knowledge.


  • David:

    Thank you for sharing my post “Why There’s a QR Explosion Happening Right Now.” Glad that you found it useful. I enjoyed the rest of your article as well – we too are starting to use QR codes for a lot more clients.


  • QR code is a great invention people made. I’m making mobile apps currently and find it really cool to implement QR codes into them. I’m amazed at QR code coupons http://www.Snappii.com app builder allows to create. They are really helpful for small businesses.