What Your Small Business Should Know About QR Codes
You’ve probably seen, heard of or scanned QR codes in recent years. You can find all types of QR codes everywhere — on tables at tech-savvy restaurants, receipts from retail stores and consumer goods packaging labels. People can scan QR codes and see the magic happen if they can access their smartphone’s camera.
QR codes are becoming increasingly popular because they are easy to create, simple to use and help customers quickly get the information they need. If you’re a small or medium-sized business (SMB) owner, you know how important it is to meet your customers’ needs and expectations. As the world becomes more digitally connected, staying abreast of the latest business technology trends is crucial — using QR codes is no exception.
Learn more about QR codes, how they work, how they differ from traditional barcodes and how your SMB can benefit from using QR codes.
What are QR Codes?
QR (quick response) codes are specific types of two-dimensional, machine-readable barcodes that contain a series of pixels in a square-shaped grid.
A unique QR code contains some type of information, most often website URLs, phone numbers or links to apps on the iOS and Google Play stores. Other information that QR codes can store are menus, serial tracking and Wi-Fi passwords.
QR codes were introduced in 1994 by Japanese automotive company Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota. One of the main reasons the company began to use QR codes was to improve the tracking of auto parts as the vehicle progressed through the manufacturing process.
QR codes are viable alternatives to traditional barcodes. In order to scan standard barcodes, you must hold a beam of light over the barcode’s parallel lines.
A special barcode scanner and a system capable of interpreting and reading data are required to access the information contained in the barcode. You can also use a barcode scanner app on your smartphone if a barcode scanner is unavailable.
Static vs. Dynamic QR Codes
You can use two main types of QR codes for your small business: static and dynamic.
Static QR codes contain fixed content, meaning that the information is essentially permanent. You cannot edit the information in a static QR code.
For example, if you make a typing error in the URL for your QR code, you’d have to create a new one, so it scans properly. The other type, dynamic, allows for more flexibility. You can change the information stored in the QR code as needed.
QR Codes vs. Barcodes
Because a QR code is considered a specific barcode format, it looks and functions similarly to a standard one. While they both have a range of applications, QR codes offer more flexibility to businesses and customers compared to standard barcodes.
Scanning a QR code can be read left to right and top to bottom at different angles. Standard barcodes can only be read from left to right and horizontally. QR codes can also hold up to 4,000 characters of text.
How QR Codes Work
Within a standard QR code, the patterns represent binary codes. A compatible scanner interprets these codes to reveal the code’s data. When the three large squares on the outside of a QR code are scanned, the scanning device recognizes that everything inside the square is a QR code.
After scanning, the QR reader analyzes the code, looks at the individual squares and assigns each of them a value depending on if they are black or white. Finally, the reader organizes the code’s grid squares into groups to create a larger pattern.
Additionally, the more information you add to a QR code, it will have more and smaller blocks than a QR code with less information. In other words, keeping your QR code simple will have larger, fewer blocks, allowing accurate scanning.
How Your Small Business Can Use QR Codes
After learning more about QR codes, you might wonder how you can incorporate them into your small business operations. Many industries benefit from QR codes, from retail and manufacturing to food service and boutiques. You can see which QR code generators best suit your business needs online.
Because you can create QR codes on your own, you have the freedom to incorporate any pertinent information you’d like to show potential and existing customers.
Below are some interesting ways SMBs can use QR codes.
Digital marketers know how important it is for their companies to use QR codes. Modern consumers are relatively tech-savvy, meaning they’d jump at the opportunity to pull out their smartphone and scan a QR code using their smartphone camera.
SMBs looking to bolster their marketing strategies can use QR codes to guide customers to related products, in-store experiences, coupons, event details, rewards programs and more. This strategy helps with cross-selling and up-selling.
Convenience plays a major role in a positive customer experience (CX). What’s more convenient than the few seconds it takes to scan a nearby QR code?
Customer Service and Feedback
Your SMB can also benefit from QR codes by building out your customer service experience. For example, suppose you own a build-it-yourself furniture store.
Customers might run into issues when they go home and start building their product. Suppose you included a QR code with detailed instructions or video tutorials. In that case, they’d have a much easier time assembling the piece of furniture. Including QR codes on important manuals or documents can be a major boon to your business.
You can also use QR codes to direct customers to a customer service representative or a survey where they can share valuable information about their experience. From there, you can use the feedback to identify areas of improvement and make changes accordingly.
Sales and Payment
The era of contactless payment is here, meaning it’s important for businesses to offer easy, quick and touch-free payment options for their customers. This can help your brick-and-mortar store avoid long lines and ensure your customers have a seamless experience.
Customers can use various financial apps such as PayPal or Venmo to complete transactions. Two other popular companies, Stripe and Shopify, offer businesses built-in QR code payment functionality or have third-party integrations to simplify the transaction process.
SMBs can also improve their brand reputation and customer loyalty by providing incentives through QR code scans. An effective way to drive traffic to your company website is to do giveaways. You can create a contact information form, incorporate its link into a QR code and ask customers to scan it using their smartphone camera.
They can enter their name, phone number and email address, in addition to signing up for your company newsletter or email marketing list, expanding your reach. It’s also possible to add your business’s social media accounts to a QR code to grow your online following.
SMBs Can Leverage QR Codes in Multiple Ways
Although QR codes are not a revolutionary technology, they are finally gaining popularity after their introduction in 1994. Because businesses can create QR codes for a wide range of products, services and online content, they can help companies improve multiple aspects of their business.
Ultimately, companies should use QR codes to drive revenue, bolster their marketing efforts, meet the needs of their customers and come across as a technologically driven organization.
Eleanor is editor of Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.