QR Codes Use In Business: Not Only Marketing and Advertising

By the early 1990s, Toyota Company found out that the barcode system they used to track parts was running out of capacity: the number components the company used was about to exceed the number of items they could encode in a standard barcode. Therefore, in 1994 Toyota’s subsidiary, Denso Wave invented two-dimensional graphical code system they called Quick Response, or QR code system. It was designed to allow high-speed component scanning during manufacturing process.

QR Codes are, of course, useful, but you need to think where and how to use them (just like with everything else).

Recently QR codes were (re)discovered by advertisers and have become common in consumer marketing and advertising. The initial idea was very promising: to connect print and mobile media, let people easily get more information when they look at the printed ad, poster or boxed item in a store.

Unfortunately, this trend was fast picked up by marketing people who decided that their brand will not be perceived "cool" and "up-to-date" if they won't put QR Codes everywhere: on their marketing materials, on product packaging, on the posters. At the same time, they did not want to invest any time or money in making this useful, but simply put url to their corporate web site, not even mobile version of it. And in some cases designers tried to fit QR Code in their overall design and make it so small that it could not be scanned at all.

As a result at the moment we are witnessing a backlash against QR codes with customers not scanning them and companies being certain QR codes don’t work. The articles on QR Codes changed from "QR Codes is the future in advertising and marketing, every business should use them" type to "QR Codes are dead, and will hurt your brand if you use them..." type - often written by the same people in a span of one - two years.

In reality, if you do not pay attention to media hype in one or another direction and think for yourself, QR Codes are, of course, useful, but you need to think where and how to use them (just like with everything else).

First, use of QR codes is not restricted to consumer advertising or marketing. It has great application in streamlining internal business operations, for example inventory management. It was discovered a long time ago that inventory tracking using scanning is much superior to manual: it streamlines the processes and minimizes human errors. Large corporations invested millions to create barcode scanning inventory management systems with proprietary hardware and software. Now smartphones, mobile applications and QR codes put such systems within reach of any company - you do not proprietary hardware any more, just a smartphone with QR Codes scanning mobile application designed to keep track of the inventory.

... use of QR codes is not restricted to consumer advertising or marketing

Placing orders, in both B2B and B2C environment, is another application of QR codes. If you are selling products to businesses, you are probably familiar with situations when long lulls follow by "rush-rush-rush", when it turns out that your client did not realize they are almost out of items A and B, and need them urgently. Using QR codes for placing B2B orders can improve this situation, as person who opens the last box of item A can take phone from his pocket, scan QR Code on the box and place an order on the spot.

In B2C environment, business can provide an easy way to re-order for their customers by putting QR Codes on item label or packaging.

And, of course, QR Codes are good fit for marketing and advertising if done correctly. The common tips are:

  1. Make sure that QR Code is scanable - try it yourself first before putting on your advertising materials

  2. Let users know what will they get after they scan QR code

  3. Make it something that people will want to get (e.g. they probably will want to get a coupon or discount, they may like to review more information if it is relevant and can be easily viewed on the mobile phone, they may want to get a recipe or even fill out your survey - but they probably won't scan to like you on Facebook or look at desktop version of your web site).

  4. You can provide something of a lasting value and encourage further communication with the customers. For example, you can let users download an Apple Passbook based card that you can update with the new offers and information on the regular basis.

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