You've seen them on the covers of magazines, catalogues, newspapers and yellow pages, in print advertisements, on store shelves and product packaging. They're typically small, black-and-white squares that look like Aztec artwork. They are QR codes and the best professional barcode software can easily create them.
QR code stands for quick response code and it's a 2D, or matrix, barcode developed in Japan in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave Co. The company used QR codes to track parts during the automobile manufacturing and assembly processes.
Unlike a 1D, or linear, barcode, a QR code allows information to be read from both the vertical and horizontal sides of a barcode. QR codes can encode about 350 times more information than a 1D barcode, according to QRCodesInMarketing.net.
QR codes are read with a smartphone-equipped QR-code reader app. They have become a ubiquitous marketing tool in recent years. More than 20 million U.S. smartphone users scanned QR codes in a three-month period ending in October 2011, according to Comscore, a digital-tracking and analytics company.
The most popular place to scan QR codes is at home, followed by retail stores, grocery stores, at work, outside or on public transit, and in restaurants, Comscore reports.
In Europe, QR codes have spread rapidly. QR code scanning in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom increased 96 percent to 17.4 million users in a three-month period ending in July 2012, according to Comscore. Nearly 75 percent of those scans were for product information. Germany had the highest QR code scanning, at 18.6 percent of smartphone users.
Comscore reports that 60 percent of those who scan QR codes are male, 53 percent are between ages of 18-34, and 36 percent have six-figure household incomes or higher.
Here are a few more facts and tips about QR codes:
- The two most prevalent reasons for scanning QR codes are to get a coupon or discount and to access additional information.
- Though QR codes are typically black and white, they do come in color.
- QR codes are good for marketing because most people own smartphones and the codes can be placed on print advertising, posters, websites, business cards, store shelves and windows, receipts, T-shirts, signs, billboards and anywhere the public frequents.
- The more focused the information embedded in a QR code, the better success marketers will have. This has proven true with coupons and product deals. Like any good message, be specific, concise and clear.
- If you're a marketer, you may want to identify QR codes in your campaigns with some text such as "scan this" or a website address, "TopTenREVIEWS.com." Though millions have scanned QR codes and know their purpose, tens of millions more people never have used them. Professional barcode software offers options to include text with QR codes.
- One last tip: Make sure websites to which you direct viewers through QR codes are mobile-optimized. It's frustrating for smartphone users to visit a site that simply doesn't work clearly and quickly on their smartphones.
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