Smartphones/Mobile Applications

QR Codes: To Scan or Not to Scan

qrcodesHave you seen those crazy looking black and white checkered boxes lately? They are not just in the Sunday paper, mail inserts, or at stores for fun. They are called QR Codes and they are the next generation of online advertising. These little boxes connect the consumer from a Point of Purchase directly to the product’s website in seconds. A Point of Purchase is a form of signage in a store that draws the consumer to a particular product and gets them interested. The signage may have information about the product, but lately they can also have a code on them.

Recently, my boss Laurie went to Home Depot to pick up some flowers to landscape her yard. When doing so, she noticed QR codes on each information tag for each plant. If you scanned the code, it would take you directly to a mobile Home Depot site with tips on how to plant that particular flower and videos of Martha Stewart giving floral tips. So, not only do you get to buy your beautiful flowers right at the convenient Home Depot, but you also can get free tips from the pros on how to make your yard beautiful. It’s a win-win.

Another cool use of the codes I noticed was when my husband and I were browsing through a Best Buy late last year. We both have smartphones and saw the codes on every hang tag for every electronic item. The reason these tags were so efficient is because they kept the information simple and organized in bullet points about the item. If you wanted more detailed information about the item, just scan the code that is conveniently located on the hang tag. We were really excited to see that Best Buy was paving the way for this modern and efficient use of technology.

When it comes to marketing, QR Codes can be very beneficial to business. You can offer coupons that are only available when scanning one. You can give more information about your product directly to consumers like Best Buy does, or you can even give free how-to’s like Home Depot does. There is a plethora of ways to make the codes valuable in your business. Be creative. Send out post cards in the mail about your business and say, “Scan this QR Code to receive 20% off your next purchase!” Consumers will feel the urge to scan it in order to save money, and it will help your business earn more traffic to your store and website.

Do not be concerned about QR Codes not taking off. They are. According to D3 Interactive Marketing, “In a 2011 survey, 65% of respondents had seen one and 49% had scanned one. 70% of smartphone users would be interested in scanning a QR Code. 63% would use a QR Code to access more information. Usage grew 1200% in just 6 months from July – December of 2010. 57% of Facebook users have scanned one at least 1 time in the past year. With 40% having done it 5 or more times. 66% of smartphone users actively surf the internet for content using their smartphone.”

So what does this mean for your business? It means if you don’t already have a mobile website and a way for users to access it, you need to start now. Create a mobile site and QR Code that directs the consumer to it. You will generate more traffic and leads to your business. QR Codes are a win-win!

Allison Kahn is the Marketing Assistant at Princeton Marketing Group in Greensboro, NC. She has a BA in English Literature from Wesley College in Dover, DE. She has a passion for Social Media Marketing.

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Allison Kahn


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  • Hi Allison:

    Can QR codes be displayed on smartphones and then read directly off the smart phone? (I’m thinking about companies creating virtual coupons that are scanned and redeemed at the till. Sure I’m not the first person to think of this . . . .

    If this is a dumb question forgive me. But everyone seems to be reading QR codes from paper.


    • Paul,

      Interesting question because it creates additional questions. For example, do we have a scenario in which a Smartphone user captures a QR Code on paper (or as an attachment to an e-mail message) and saves it for display later on their screen. What would be the point of that? Well, if a second Smartphone user scanned the QR Code displayed on the first Smartphone’s screen, then it could be one way of sharing the information it contains with a friend or colleague while “on-the-go”. If the first Smartphone user is going to keep the QR Code info for themselves, then there isn’t much of a point to have it displayed on the screen. This is because loyalty programs have already perfected virtual coupons (that don’t have to be displayed on the smartphone’s screen). Starbuck’s Smartphone app stores credits that are scanned in store to buy coffee. That’s all you need. Remember the point of a QR code is as a bridge from the physical world to the digital world. Scanning a QR Code that is already on a digital device is only viable if that digital device is used physically to get someone else to bridge from the physical world (hanging out with their friend or colleague) to the digital world.