QR Codes originated in the logistics field as a way to track inventory and products in warehouses, similar to barcodes. “QR” stands for “quick response”**, as the code is a way to store a lot of information in a small graphic and receive a quick response when scanned.
A few years ago, companies started putting QR codes on everything. Not wanting to miss the boat, etsy shops, handmade artists, bloggers, and other creative businesses started using QR codes on product packaging, business cards, and more. Customers were confused and not sure how to use them. Here’s how to use a QR code:
- Download a QR code reader app (application) to your mobile device (smartphone or tablet).
- Take a photo of the QR code.
- Use the QR code reader to read the code, which usually takes the user to a website or video that’s stored on the internet.
Sounds pretty cool, right? The problem is some marketers don’t know when it’s appropriate to use a QR Code***, so even if you’ve seen them in use, you might not have seen them used properly and thoughtfully. In the interest of appearing clever or hip or technologically advanced, companies are using QR codes without consideration of the consumer.
So when should you use a QR code for your creative business? When:
- Your product has instructions for use. Use a QR code to direct customers to a video tutorial on how to use or care for your product.
- A long url or a link is not practical or possible. If a link is particularly long, such as the link to a video or a specific web page, and the link is VITAL to the success of your product, you might use a QR code instead of the link. An alternative is to use a URL shortener to make a short or vanity url that is easy to remember and type.
When and why should you AVOID using a QR Code for your creative business?
- On the internet. You’re already on the internet so why do you need a QR code to take you to something else on the internet? You need a mobile device to take a photo of the QR code, then a reader to read it, and then it takes you to a link on the internet browser on your mobile device. A clickable link works just fine and is much faster…
- Only about 5% of Americans use them*. It’s a lot of effort and printing cost for very little return. Plus you’ll annoy everyone who doesn’t know what a QR code is or how to use it.
- When taking a photo is impractical – if your QR code is on the side of a moving food truck, it will be nearly impossible for people to take a photo of it to scan it.
- When a link or icon makes more sense. The space on your business can be better used to communicate much more useful information, such as what you make or how to contact you instead of a big, boxy QR Code in the middle of the card.
- For social media links. Use icons for social media and then “/username” on your business cards. A QR Code is too much work in order to have the “prize” be finding your company on social media.
The QR Code on the back of this product package takes the user to the web page for the artist who designed the product as well as a “how-to” video on how to use the product.
This business card has too many QR codes and they are unnecessary as the website URL and email address are simple and printed on the card right next to the QR code.
This business card shows a great alternative to using QR codes for social media – use the icon for each social network with “/username” on your marketing materials.
QR codes may be here to stay but that doesn’t mean they belong on your printed materials and especially not on your website. How do you feel about QR codes?
By: Jennifer Priest from Hydrangea Hippo