The comeback of QR codes

QR codes make a comeback

QR codes have made a comeback! I’m sure you have noticed them during COVID on the menu of your favorite restaurant or on an ad at your local bus stop. The big question is … are they here to stay this time? As a marketer, is it worth my time implementing QR codes in my campaigns? The answer is yes, and we’ll tell you why this time is different.

QR codes were introduced to the public back in 2010, but unfortunately did not last long due to a few reasons:

1. At this time only 50% of people in the U.S. had a smart phone and those smart phones didn’t contain a pre-loaded QR code reader*

2. Many of the sites behind a QR code were not mobile optimized and, therefore, not user friendly*

Now that most smart phones have the built-in capability to scan a QR code with the camera app, they’re easier than ever for consumers to access. And thanks to the widespread use of QR codes on menus, most people are now familiar with how to use them. Since 2010, we’ve learned more on how to optimize their use and many more use cases now, aside from viewing a menu, such as:

• Navigate to a website to purchase a product or sign up for a service or event
• Reveal special discounts or coupon codes
• Download apps
• Add calendar events
• Engage with social media
• Make a contactless payment
• Share a digital business card
• Connect to Wi-Fi without a password
• Make a call
• Leave a review
• … and many more

Now that you know the various use cases, it’s also important to understand the anatomy of a QR code to know how they work and how to use them.

Here’s the anatomy of a QR code broken down into its components:

QR code anatomy
Positioning detection markers
These markers are located at 3 corners of each code. They allow a scanner to recognize and read the code at high speed, while indicating the direction the code is printed.
Version information
This information specifies the type of QR code. Currently, there are about 40 different use cases.
Timing pattern
This pattern helps configure the data grid and determines the size of the data matrix.
Format information
These patterns contain information about the error tolerance and data pattern.
Alignment markings
These markings are smaller than the position detection markers and help straighten out the code drawn on a curved surface. The more information stored in a code, the larger the alignment marking.
Data and error correction keys
The data keys contain all the data, and the error correction keys allow up to 30% of the code to be damaged and still able to scan.
Quiet zone
Like white space in design, this zone is vital to distinguish the code from its surroundings.

But what makes QR codes so popular and attractive to marketers?

QR codes help bridge the gap between the offline experience and the online experience. They allow marketers to better target their known audience with an offline channel while also providing a modern customer experience through online channels.

Here is an example of a successful campaign that Pragmatic helped develop using our QR code best practices.

Gusto QR creative

Are QR codes expensive to implement?

No, QR codes are inexpensive and easy to create and maintain. You can create a simple static code using InDesign software for free or work with a QR code vendor to generate a dynamic code for as little as $5/month.

The USPS also offers discounts on postage for using QR codes during certain promotion periods in the year, so be sure to check their website and enroll.

Pragmatic’s 7 best practices for implementing QR codes

To be successful with implementing your QR code, you’ll need to follow these tried-and-true best practices to set you up for success for your next campaign.

1. Make the design recognizable
Your customers should be able to recognize that it’s a QR code and it should be easy for an app to scan.

2. Use the right size
The QR code should be a minimum of 2 x 2 cm (around 0.8 x 0.8 in). If it’s any smaller than this, a smartphone camera will be unable to scan and read it.

3. Test your link
Ensure that you test the URL that you plan to use within your QR code. If your link is broken or includes the wrong information, the QR code will not work.

4. Use high quality images
For best results, download the QR code as a vector file: EPS or SVG format.

5. Use contrasting colors
Use a dark foreground and a light background to ensure your QR code stands out for easier scanning.

6. Give a reason to scan
Include a clear call-to-action near the QR code, so the customer knows what to expect when they scan.

And most importantly…

7. Make sure they get to the site

• Use a short URL to make the QR code easier to scan. Do not include too many variables or information in the URL QR code, as that will make it more complex and harder for the scanner to read and will take longer to load.
• Do not lead them to a complicated desktop site. Consumers will be on their phone when scanning the QR code, so they should be brought to a page with a positive mobile site experience.

If you’re interested in implementing a QR code into your next campaign, please reach out to the Pragmatic team. If you are already using QR codes, we’d love to hear how it went.

Karin Thompson

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