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QR 101: When to Use a QR Code

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 QR codes are popping up everywhere for two reasons: they’re a smartphone’s best friend, and they’re a powerful marketing tool. These funky little square bar codes deliver a lot of information in a way that’s fast and easy for a phone to read. Plus, by providing a direct route to digital content that users actively engage with, they can instantly transform passive readers of printed ads into sales leads.

While most people still don’t interact with QR codes (either they don’t understand what they are, don’t have a smartphone, or simply tune them out), more and more people do. And because they take up very little space on an ad, marketers see them as a low-risk, high reward opportunity to engage with the growing mobile audience.

But that doesn’t mean QR codes are a smart move for everyone with a message to send. In fact, they work best only when four simple conditions are met. Here are the simple questions to ask yourself:

1) Will your QR Code appear in an area with smartphone service?

Don’t laugh. A lot of QR Codes have appeared in subways or in the boonies. We’ve also seen them on ads geared towards folks who don’t typically even have smartphones. D’oh!

2) Do you have a mobile site?

This one’s a biggie actually. Anyone who scans your code has a smartphone, and has downloaded a QR reader app for it. That means they’re reasonably tech-savvy, and have come to expect a seamless mobile web experience. A full website on a tiny smartphone screen is anything but seamless. It’s irritating, and that’s not good marketing.

3)  Do you have useful information to offer that’s directly relevant to your ad?

By incorporating a QR code into your ad, you’re asking people to take extra time and energy to scan it and see where it leads. You’ll alienate your potential leads you don’t give them something real for that effort, so make sure that your QR code has a direct, clear connection to your ad message – whether it’s more details about what you promise, a chance to enter a contest to win your product, or some other relationship.

4) Do you have an easy way to collect and act on data your visitors provide?

In addition to offering something of value to your QR visitors, you’ll want to make it easy for them to get in touch with you. Make sure to add a clear call-to-action on the page your QR Code links to, and to get the info you need to follow up with those who took the time to engage with your site.  Many successful QR campaigns request visitors enter their email address to “unlock” a free download, for example.

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