Here’s a new trick you can teach your smartphone. You’re walking around when suddenly you see something you want to know more about. Without a computer handy, most of us write down the information for research later, or perhaps write a note to ourselves on a smartphone. We run into this all the time, and it can be a pain digging rummaging around looking for it later (if we even remember to look for it).
Now there’s a better way to deal with that sudden itch for info, and it involves something you see every day, but probably haven’t given much attention.
We are all familiar with barcodes—those series of stripes scanned in with a laser that rings up our purchases accurately and quickly (sometimes). Those are commonly known as 1-D barcodes, meaning that the barcode carries data in one dimension only, almost always along the horizontal. But there are other barcode varieties, known as 2-D barcodes. These barcodes encode data in two dimensions, horizontal and vertical, and the resulting series of dots or squares are capable of encoding much more data in a small area. Think about UPS and/or FedEx labels. That cryptic checkerboard pattern you see is actually a 2-D code, containing the tracking number and destination.
One type of 2-D “symbology” or encoding method is the Quick Response or QR code. This is a 2-D barcode that may contain up to 4,296 characters. That data can include a website URL, a phone number, a block of text, or even an SMS (text message).
Almost anyone with a smartphone—or even a basic camera phone—has the ability to read those codes, and respond accordingly by adding someone’s contact info to the address book or by visiting the corresponding website. What this means for end-users is that they can now get immediate access to information if they have a QR-capable phone. And what this means for sign purchasers is they have the ability to incorporate those codes directly into their signage. From window signage to banners to billboards, all that’s required is a free QR code of the appropriate size for a camera phone to ensure that customers get the message you intended.
For free readers for phones, Kaywa (bit.ly/9A3pmp) or QuickMark (bit.ly/9jytDU) have readers for almost every phone imaginable. For iPhone users, ScanLife (bit.ly/9DGTh6) comes highly recommended. Android users can use QuickMark, mentioned above, and BlackBerry users can also use ScanLife (bit.ly/bNzdsy).
Generating the QR code is simple. There are a number of websites offering free QR code generation, and each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. One thing to look for is a website that offers the code as an EPS download, so you can ensure the maximum print quality regardless of size. One of the best we’ve seen is QRCodeGen (bit.ly/cDURIZ), which offers just about every barcode imaginable, including one with the ability to launch a phone call. That feature alone ought to be enough to make your favorite marketer’s heart beat just a little faster.
Customers are always hungry for more immediate information from stores. With the QR code, you can provide a link to that information right on your customers’ signage at no additional cost to you, increasing the perceived value of retail signage.
This technology is still new enough that innovators are still coming up with imaginative ways to use it in their business. How about you?