You’ve probaby seen these odd looking squiggly square designs that look like a poor man’s Rorschach Test on all kinds of products and media. This two-dimensional image consists of black modules in a square pattern on a white background. Known as a QR code. (QR stands for “quick response”) it can be read quickly by a device such as a smartphone, containing encoded text, data or a URL.
Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave developed the code back in 1994. The fact that the typical barcode can only hold up to 20 digits, whereas the QR Code can hold up to 7,089 numeric characters, made it the ideal tool for tracking endless car parts. It wasn’t long before other uses for the code became obvious as it can also contain other information
While the U.S. has been slow to adopt this technology (it’s been quite popular in Europe and Asia for many years) you’re starting to see more and more QR Codes on everything from bottles of wine to magazine ads. This is due in large part to the exponential growth of smartphones which the Nielson Company says will dominate the market by Q3 of this year.
You could place one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, URL link to the page for reviews or price comparison. They can be added to any print advertising, flyers, posters, TV ads etc. The Code can contain a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, give you a coupon to use, link to your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace pages or to a YouTube video. The possibilities are endless such as PayPal payments and replacing airplane boarding passes.
The QR Code will eventually replace the ubiquitous business card as we know it. It can contain all your contact information making it a breeze for someone to add you to their contacts. Think about attending that next conference or networking event where you save someone’s information right from their badge containing a QR Code.
Here’s another example of the many uses for this code. Adegga is a social wine discovery site that is promoting another new code, AVIN whose goal is to be the ISBN for wines. Every wine will have a AVIN code that uniquely identify that particular wine and year. They’re promoting the use of QR codes that will point to the AVIN's page for the wine (right now is being redirected to Adegga's page on the wine with all the reviews and ratings from the community). Wine makers are starting to print the QR Code on the bottle label, so wine shopping will never have been so easy. Scan it with your phone and pick the perfect wine to go with your meal.
You will need a QR code reader, like this one from Kaywa. It literally takes just a minute to find and install a scanner with an iPhone or Android phone.
If you’re going to create a QR Code for yourself or your business, remember that the more data you cram into your code, the smaller the pixels will be, and the more sensitive the scanners will have to be to read it accurately. This QR code generator can embed a URL, text, a phone number, or an addressed and ready-to-send SMS message into a QR code.
If you're encoding a URL, make sure it's a site that will render well in a phone browser. Here's more on best practices for using QR codes in your business. If you’re looking for a simple tool, try itsmyurls.com. It’s free and will create a QR Code for you that links to a page listing all your information, social media and more. Another great resource is QRStuff.com.
QR codes aren’t just a passing fad. According to TechCrunch, Facebook is experimenting with profile or status QR code generation on fan pages. Imagine a QR code that instantly makes the person scanning it a fan of a brand, company, or personality without ever typing a URL. Google also encourages the use of QR codes. Their "Favorite Places" puts QR codes in the windows of local businesses that point to their online listing page.
Caveat: Just like any URL shortener, the QR code cloaks the landing page so be wise as to what QR codes you scan. Make sure it is a reputable company or contact before clicking through. Have you scanned a QR Code or see it as useful tool for you or your business? Let us know in the Comments.
(Hint: this code contains a URL that will bring you to the mobile version of the site you're reading right now.)