How QR codes can help your business (and how to use them correctly)

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QR codes, or “quick response” codes, are a type of barcode, readable with digital devices such as smartphones. These barcodes, which look like square-shaped grids, hold much more information than a traditional barcode that you would see on food packages in grocery stores, for example. QR codes are used by companies to track products in a supply chain and they are often used by marketers who want people to scan the code with their phones and visit a website.

According to Nicolas Rivero of Quartz, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed th utility and innovation of QR codes to the general public. Restaurants, retailers, and pharmacies, for example, have been jumping on board with QR codes, to provide an easy, convenient way for consumers to get what they need, whether that’s food, clothes, or healthcare.

Reasons to use QR codes

From disease prevention to tracking analytics, QR codes can be an excellent value-add to many businesses. Below are ways QR codes can help create a more sanitized place of business, track customer engagement, or simply lower costs.

Help prevent spread of disease & improve cleanliness

Hygiene is a primary reason for the rise in QR code popularity. QR codes enable touchless engagement so businesses can minimize the spread of infectious diseases.

Restaurants and bars, for instance, have placed QR codes on tables for quick access to the menu. Some have even gone as far as to offer an online ordering system through the same readable QR code, eliminating the need for paper menus, paper bills and pens.

QR codes can be essential for businesses looking to improve their sanitation. A National Environmental Health Association report revealed that restaurant menus have been found to contain traces of Salmonella and E.coli. Swapping out paper menus for a touchless application can help reduce bacteria and prevent customers from getting sick.

Availability on mobile devices

According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Plus, most newer generation smartphones already contain QR code scanning capabilities, and there are also free QR scanning apps available. Given the availability of QR code scanners, integrating QR codes with your existing business operations means your customers will likely be able to take advantage of your new options without much, or any extra effort.

Opportunity to provide customers with more information

For many businesses, a QR code simply provides an excellent opportunity to easily distribute more, and important, information. Instead of customers navigating through multiple pages, they can use your QR code to go directly to the page they need — and the page you want them on. For example, some pharmacies have adopted the use of QR codes to replace the use of paper prescriptions. This allows the doctor to send the code to the patient, and then the pharmacist can scan the code from the patient’s phone and gather the prescription details. This can be particularly helpful during a telehealth visit.

Lower business costs

Of course, reducing the amount of paper used can drive down overall business costs. Restaurants that make the switch from paper menus to QR codes could significantly reduce costs, for example. According to a report compiled by ATUMIO (a contributor to online publishing platform Medium), paper menus eat into the profit of a business — profits that could be much better spent on food, kitchen supplies and appliances, or employees.

How to correctly implement QR codes

QR codes that take people to web pages they weren’t expecting, or forms they don’t want to fill out, won’t help your business. When implemented well, QR codes are an excellent source of touchpoint browsing.

Use QR codes to simplify the action you want the customer to take.

QR codes can be coupons and special promotions, make buying items a breeze, and even eliminate the need for users to download apps. These codes can also facilitate connecting on social media, leaving reviews, and consolidating long URLs, making what could be a convoluted process — easy.

For example, think about a coffee shop in your town that’s trying to up its social media game. The shop owners could ask you to follow them on social media via a sign with the business’ social handle written down, hoping the customer will take the information down and use it at some point. Or the coffee shop could use a QR code to advertise their social media channels, which requires only one customer action: a simple scan of the code, which opens to the shop’s social media account where the customer simply clicks “follow.”

Keep your QR code message short and sweet

When designing your QR code messaging, make sure you let your customers know what it’s for, simply. If the code is for the menu to your restaurant, all you need to tell them is that it’s your restaurant’s menu. If the code is for your company’s Instagram account, simply include the name of the social media platform or even a picture of its logo. Keep it short and sweet so the customer knows where they’re going but isn’t overwhelmed by other information.

It’s also generally better to design your QR by thinking “short and sweet.”. If the code is taking the user to a web page, make sure it’s a shorter URL so users will get to your site faster. Also, use dark, contrasting colors for your QR code look and feel to help smartphones more easily read the code.

Put the QR code in the right place

A QR code is only going to work if your customers can find it. Make sure your code is easy to spot and in a readily, available location. This can depend on the type of business you’re running. For realtors, a QR code may be best placed on a business card. For restaurants, the code is better served as a centerpiece on the table. At a trade show, put the code on signage. At a retail store, put it right next to the point of sale.

Just remember that these codes must be scanned by a smartphone, and within reach of the person’s hands.

Use the right QR-code generator

So how do you make a QR code? There are several QR code generators to choose from, each with its own set of features. You may want one that ensures compatibility of your QR code no matter the device of the QR code reader, or you may want more flexibility with design. Free code generators exist, but if you’re looking for more options you’ll likely need to pay more for your codes.

As for compatibility, some QR codes need only a smartphone, while others may require a specific device or app. If you’re serving a large, non-specific crowd, you may be better off with a code that provides greater compatibility.

Some QR code generators offer performance analysis and branded coding, but if you’re just providing your customers with a menu, a simple code generator will probably do..

Make the QR code destination worth it

If you’re providing users with a QR code, make sure the endpoint is worth the action. For example, restaurants that use codes to open a PDF version of their menu, should lead customers to a version that’s been compressed via PDF compressor. This way, the file is small enough to fit on the user’s mobile device and will open quickly.

Moreover, there are static and dynamic QR codes — the former implying that the code cannot be changed, the latter implying that it can. For restaurants, a static code is usually not the best choice. With changing menus, a static code can become easily outdated. If the code needs to be rewritten, this will mean creating a brand-new code, and of course, including that new code on all your flyers, posters, and takeaway menus. With a dynamic code, simply edit or delete PDF pages when there’s a menu change.

Make sure you choose the right type of code for your business’s needs so that your customers are not left with a malfunctioning QR code.

Track analytics and adjust accordingly

QR codes offer a new opportunity for businesses to measure customer activity. Tracking analytics is essential to understanding if your QR code strategy is successful.

Your business can track the QR code’s performance — how much it is used and when — and you can update the codes and customize as needed.

If you paid for a code with additional features, such as performance analysis, all the measures you need should be provided through the code generator application. If you use a free QR code generator, there are free analytics tools that track code usage and scans.

Tracking engagement, adjusting your QR code based on performance, and understanding how the code is impacting your business operations is perhaps the most important aspect of implementing a QR code strategy. With the right objective, clear actions you want your customers to take, and simple execution, implementing QR codes for your business can increase engagement and even sales.