QR codes are all the buzz nowadays. While they’ve been around for many years now, it’s only in the past few years that they seem to appear everywhere – and for good reason. Especially during the height of the pandemic, QR codes were a valuable tool to communicate information to individuals without needing to rely on the usual high-contact sources, such as menus.
A QR code is a type of barcode initially developed all the way back in 1994 and consisting of black squares on a white background. Your smartphone or other compatible device can then scan it to access the information stored there – typically a URL.
Since a QR code can hold a lot of information, it can be a handy tool to communicate with your audience. Like every tool, though, it also comes with pros and cons.
- Fast. QR codes are tailored to smartphone usage, and many people nowadays have a smartphone always on them. Scanning is faster than typing a URL in, making responses more likely.
- Cost-effective. QR codes don’t require any special training to make or use, and since they can store a lot of information, you can reduce your printing and marketing costs by having it redirect to an online page. While printed ads and brochures have their own pros, sometimes it’s easier to save the big stuff for a webpage!
- Reliable. QR codes are scannable from multiple angles, and even hold their information if the QR code is partly damaged. Much easier to use than a barcode!
- Customizable and trackable. As mentioned above, a QR code can hold a lot of information, so you’re rarely limited by the length of your URL. Plus, since it links to an online platform, you may be able to track users and gain data that way.
- Can be inconvenient. QR codes require a smartphone with the ability to scan the code. Some modern phones have the ability built in to their camera, but oftentimes the user has to download an app. Some users may also rely on non-smartphones, or simply don’t have their phone on them.
- Requires internet connection. QR codes also require an internet connection in order to function. People with otherwise-compatible smartphones may have low signal or no access to Wi-Fi, preventing them from accessing whatever is behind the QR code.
- Distrust and unfamiliarity. For many people even now, QR codes are fairly new technology. It can be unclear what the user is supposed to do, and tech-savvy people may not want to scan codes that lead them to an unfamiliar site where their personal information could be put at risk.
- One-way communication. A QR code is by nature a one-way communication tool. Which means that overreliance on the QR code can lead to a breakdown between you and the person you are trying to reach. It may not the ideal tool for, say, customer support.
Most of these cons, luckily, can be mitigated with smart marketing and design. We generally recommend having both a written-out URL or other manual instructions alongside the QR code, if possible. This way, it’s both clear to where the QR code is leading and possible for the user to access the same webpage manually.
If writing out the URL or other instructions is not a good option for your marketing piece, simply informing the user why the QR code is there can solve many of the distrust and communication issues. Don’t let the QR code be a mystery – tell them what they get out of scanning the code.
In summary, QR codes are a modern tool that can be extremely useful and convenient in your marketing. However, they should not be your only method of communication or interaction with your target audience, as that can lead to confusion and inaccessibility.
Want to try incorporating QR codes into some of your marketing? We can help! Next time you have a postcard, poster, brochure, newspaper ad or other marketing piece, we’ll help you construct an attractive design to help the QR code shine.