What Are QR Codes?

A Quick Response (QR) code is the trademark for a two-dimensional barcode that’s readable by a smartphone. QR codes can be used in a number of different ways. For instance, you can drive someone to a URL, scan a contact to an address book, initiate a smartphone call, or scan to add a calendar event.

Why Haven’t They Been Popular?

QR codes were invented in 1994 by Denso Wave and were initially used to track vehicles in manufacturing. In the United States, QR codes weren’t very popular due to a couple of reasons: there was low public awareness of their capabilities, people didn’t know how to use their phones to scan, they required a separate app download, and the scans were slow. Although that hasn’t been the case in Asia, where QR codes have been heavily used and extremely popular since about 2002.

What’s Changed?

Apple included the ability to scan QR codes with their iOS 11 update. They’ve built the scanning capability right into the photo app. All you have to do is open the app and hold your phone over the code. Android has also introduced a native scanning capability in their operating system.

The iPhone Scan

Social Media & QR Codes

In 2017, Facebook launched Messenger codes where users can scan to start a conversation with a business using their Messenger app (Learn How). Facebook is also rolling out codes to bot creators with the hope that people will interact more often with Messenger bots like at a concert or a restaurant. Snapchat uses Snapcodes to unlock filters and lenses. Snapchat is also giving websites their own Snapcodes. Users can create a unique Snapcode for a website that will open in Snapchat when scanned (Learn How). Twitter has gotten on the band wagon with its own Twitter QR codes which are designed to make it easier to find and follow friends. Each Twitter QR code is unique to an individual Twitter user, when scanned, will bring up the person’s account (Learn How). Pinterest has their own Pincodes that bring users to products, boards, or profiles on Pinterest (Learn How). Heck, you can even turn your Instagram profile into a QR code (Read About It).

With these social media trends, we’ll be seeing more QR codes to help users get somewhere without typing a web address or clicking on an icon. Besides, they’re just more fun.

Why Should I Care About QR Codes?

According to the Pew Research Center (Source), about 77% of U.S. adults say they own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011. Of the 77%, 92% of 18-to 29-year-olds say they own a smartphone, compared with 42% of those who are ages 65 and up. If you read our article “Millennials Will Open And Read Your Direct Mail,” you’ll soon understand the purchasing power of this demographic.

QR codes can provide a quick and easy way for smartphone users to interact with a direct mail piece. Given that QR codes may become trendy through their use on social media, your direct mailer can take advantage of it. With a quick scan, a user can be transported from a piece of print media to digital instantly.

How Do I Create One?

Creating a QR Code is easy, below are some resources. These sites not only offer the QR codes, but associated design and dashboard services. You can choose custom colors or embed your logo as part of the code. Read the terms of each website carefully to understand what’s actually being offered as a “freebie” and the number of scans allowed.






How Do I Use A QR Code In My Direct Mail Campaign?

Let’s face it, QR codes make a user’s life easier. Use your printed piece to digitally engage prospects and drive them to:

  • an exclusive or time-limited offer
  • get information about you, your products, or services
  • watch a video or view a gallery
  • dial your phone number
  • follow you on social media
  • put your event on their calendar
  • go to PayPal and make a donation
  • open locations on maps to drive foot traffic to your store

Closing Thoughts

Once you get your QR code, always test it before you send your direct mailer to customers and prospects.

QR codes can be a great way to marry your direct mail with a digital campaign by connecting your customers to digital content that they just won’t want to miss. This can provide a convenient user experience and get you favorable ROI results. Why not give it a try on your next campaign? 

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