They’re called QR codes, and they’re seemingly everywhere these days — you may have noticed them in store windows, magazine articles, and other places where you’d usually find traditional advertising. But what exactly are they, and what function do they serve for retailers?
“By the book definition, they’re two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device or camera phone, which would lead you to a phone number, SMS text message, or URL,” says Scott Bronenberg, regional sales manager for Advanced Telecom Services.
In newbie terms, QR codes are similar to regular product barcodes — only instead of listing a price at the checkout counter, they act as portals to a retailer’s mobile website or other information. Users scan the code, and in turn, the code sends the user to whatever the retailer has linked to the code — whether mobile website, coupon, or other information.
“Right now, people are using QR codes to [redirect] users to their websites,” Bronenberg says. “But what we’ve found is that there’s so much more we can do with further integrating that landing page. Be it Facebook, Twitter, an opportunity to download an app, watching a video, and live streaming.”
QR codes were first developed in Japan as early as 1994, when they were used to track automotive parts — sort of a mobile tagging system. It wasn’t until just about a few years ago that they caught on in the United States. “We’ve been working with QR codes for about a year and a half, and the growth is spiking right now,” Bronenberg says.
And, with mobile phone companies like Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile planning to offer phones equipped with QR scanners rather than have users download these scanners themselves, Bronenberg muses the interest in them will multiply — not fade out like other marketing fads. “Right now, they’re like the shiny object in the room — they’re new, and unique. But if people get more comfortable with them, their growth could be endless,” he says. “They’ve been in use in Japan for awhile now. If we as marketers can do a good job of executing what’s on the back end, they will be here to stay.”
Besides linking to a website or social media page, one could also run various promotions with QR codes. Frank Mazza, Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code production director, recently helped develop what the company calls a “scannenger hunt.” Retailers would place QR codes around their store, asking consumers to scan them to view and download exclusive content. Mazza also suggests that dealers place QR codes on showroom vehicles that link to videos of vehicle demos or customer reviews. “[Customers] can scan them, and they can see the vehicles in motion [in a video],” Mazza says. “They have all of the details they need on their phones. You could also tie the QR codes in with vehicle servicing.” The best part? Customers have access to all of this interactive content, all without having to leave your store to get it.
Advanced Telecom Services helps retailers build custom apps and marketing campaigns to link to these QR codes. The company offers customization, building, setup and development services that start at $500, plus monthly maintenance fees. Customized QR codes that are branded according to your business start at $100. Bronenberg and Mazza also run a website, QRcode2.com, where one can generate generic, black and white QR codes for free. “A lot of people who use the standard QR code just link it to their website,” Mazza says. “But the thing is, yeah, you can use them for free, but you want to brand it, from the outside and inside. That’s what we do. We’re creating a landing site for you. The works.”