Patsy O’Connor knows QR codes better than most people. The owner/founder of CustomQRCodes.com is an evangelist for getting businesses to embrace the short code in their mobile marketing and promotion campaigns. I asked Patsy about the state of QR codes, whether they were fading in popularity (they’re not), and some of the best practices you can follow in your own small business marketing.
What’s the state of QR codes today? I keep hearing that support for them is waning, but more and more people are using them anyway.
QR codes are still extremely popular today, and more companies are utilizing QR codes as part of their marketing campaigns. I think there’s still a lot of education to be delivered with regards to QR codes.
Currently, many companies using QR codes are just linking to any type of content, but consumers want something more interesting than just a link to a Facebook page or a nonmobile website. QR codes are still growing, and we’re seeing more widespread usage of them from restaurants to retailers to real estate agents.
Last year, Google dropped support for QR codes, but they’ve changed their mind, and they just released an extension for Chrome, which allows users to read a QR code without launching their camera. A lot of big players are still launching QR code campaigns, and in a lot of countries they still have to reach maturity.
Should businesses be using QR codes, or waiting for the next thing?
I think businesses should use QR codes, but they should think carefully about the campaign itself, and the content they link to. A lot of people say QR codes will be replaced by NFC (near field communication—the small chip you can wave over an NFC reader, like a credit card reader), but I’m not sure this is the case.
QR codes and NFC are two different applications, and NFC is still a ways off, in my opinion, because of the lack of support with mobile phones. QR codes can have some very good uses, but a lot of businesses have dived headfirst into rushing them onto marketing materials, sometimes giving a disappointing end result for the consumer.
Should I use a dynamic or static QR code?
It is advisable to use a dynamic QR code, as it has a lot of advantages. With dynamic QR codes, you have the advantage of the following:
- A shorter URL, which results in less complex QR codes, which are easier to scan.
- You can change the content of the QR code whenever you wish.
- You can also track the scans of the QR code.
Note: A static QR code is one where the destination URL never changes; on a dynamic code, you can change it whenever you want. Point it to a website one day, a YouTube video the next. — Duncan
What are some mistakes marketers make with QR codes?
We see some pretty common mistakes that seem to be repeated all over the world:
- Linking to nonmobile content.
- Linking to pointless content.
- Video content not encoded properly and tested across all mobile platforms.
- Placing QR codes on billboards (they are too small and not scannable, plus you’re driving) and TV channels (they appear for too short a time).
- Printing the QR code too small (makes it unreadable).
- Changing the colors of the QR code, which makes it too light to scan.
- Not testing the QR code.
- Not adding instructions next to the code for people who have never seen one.
- QR codes that lead to online content used in subways—there’s no Internet access there.
What are some best practices marketers should follow with QR codes?
- The content should always lead to a mobile website.
- Verify the content is interesting and valid.
- Based on surveys and feedback, consumers feel when they scan a QR code, they would like to see rewards; for example, vouchers/coupons or bonus content. There has to be an incentive for someone to take out their phone, launch an app, and scan the QR code.
- When printing QR codes on materials, test, test, and test some more. Always do one print run before printing en masse.
- Don’t invert the colors on the QR code, as it will not scan. Only a very few scanners (notably i-nigma and Qrafter) support inverted QR codes. The QR code should always be darker than the background.
- Use shortened URLs, if possible, as it will be easier to read the QR code.
- The white space border is necessary on the QR code so do not feel the need to lose this or the QR code may not scan.
- Use a management/tracking system to change the campaign details and track your QRs, such as QRCodeTracking.com.
- Explain how to scan and add a link to a suitable QR code reader.
- Test across a variety of QR readers.
- If the code content is a website make sure it works properly on all platforms.
About the author: Duncan Alney is the president and founder of Firebelly Marketing. He’s an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and photographer, and he’s working on his first social media marketing book, which will be out in late 2012. Duncan has lived on 3 continents and in 5 countries, but is proud to call Indianapolis home.
QR Code Best Practices for Small Business