Look around next time you’re at a restaurant. There’s a growing probability that somewhere on your table will be a card, or maybe a sticker glued to the tabletop, with a QR code on it. Use your smartphone to read the code. You now have the full menu on your device—no need for a printed one. Living in the middle of a pandemic, this is a desirable option for many. And it’s not just happening in restaurants. Everywhere we look, we see QR codes being used for business.
Quick response codes, more commonly known as QR codes, are an evolution forward from traditional barcodes. Although still two-dimensional, they can store much more varied types of information. Barcodes could only display a certain number of alphanumeric characters. QR codes can store up to 7,000 characters as well as complex data such as URLs, social media profiles, and PDFs, video, and photos. They can also redirect you (via your smartphone) to almost anywhere on the web. You can view information, make contactless payments, redeem coupons … the list goes on and on.
According to a recent survey, QR codes saw a 96% growth in use between 2018 and 2020. During that same period, there was a 94% increase in QR interactions between businesses and consumers. And two-thirds of the respondents to a 2020 MobileIron poll agreed that “QR codes make life easier in a touchless world.”
If you aren’t already making QR codes available, should you be? It depends on your type of business, of course. How you interact with your customers also matters. If customers regularly need more information about your products or services or want to interact with you digitally in a more seamless fashion, QR codes might be right for you. Here are five benefits, along with accompanying use cases, to help you make up your mind.
1. Transfer your customers and prospects from the physical to the digital world when using QR codes for business
If you have customers (or prospects) who still prefer to receive traditional flyers or direct mail, QR codes are a great way to bring those offline relationships online. With a QR code on your printed marketing collateral, you can direct customers to your website, digital collateral or forms, begin email or text conversations with them, or take them to an online appointment scheduler. QR codes bridge the gap between in-person and online interactions for you and your customers.
2. Sustain a healthier, more hygienic environment with QR codes for business
With the pandemic came demand for safer, more hygienic ways to communicate with physical customers in business environments. The menu example is the perfect model. Rather than give customers a physical menu that others have also handled, restaurants make QR codes available so that diners can bring up the menu on their phones. This provides a healthy, no-contact way for clientele to peruse the selections available.
Some restaurants even allow patrons to choose their orders online and send them directly (digitally) to the kitchen. In cases like these, it eases the workload of waitpersons. This frees them up to deliver food to tables and checking up on other customers. This is a win-win for everyone concerned.
3. Give your customers immediate access to helpful information when using QR codes for business
The most popular use of QR codes is providing customers with access to helpful information. A QR code lets you give them more data than is convenient or feasible to physically display.
For example, in retail environments, QR codes can give detailed information about a product’s ingredients, usage recommendations, origins, sell-by date, and other information. Customers can just point their phones to codes posted right on store shelves. QR codes can also give inventory information about what products are in stock, and whether, for example, a sweater is available in a different color or size. This frees up your staff to engage in higher-level conversations with customers. After all, customers still crave the human touch when shopping.
QR codes can also be used on product packaging. Warranty information, for example, can be embedded in a QR code. Or you could include a link for customers to immediately register their purchases. QR codes can even contain complete instruction manuals.
4. Drive customers to engage with you
QR codes can also prompt action on the part of customers. A common use is to embed discounts in QR codes found in newspapers or magazines. These also have the benefit of connecting new customers digitally to your business, and then customer information can be collected for future interactions. Such codes can even be used in TV advertisements. Viewers can hold their phones directly to the screens to engage with vendors.
QR codes can also do things like prompt consumers to leave reviews for businesses. Since user reviews have been proven to drive business—with 87% of consumers checking such reviews before patronizing a business—it pays when satisfied customers leave them. You can send them to Facebook, your own webpage, or one of the independent business-rating sites like Yelp. You can put a QR code on your business card, on a purchasing receipt, or anywhere else the customer might find convenient. Since many people often don’t write reviews because of forgetfulness or inconvenience, this can greatly improve your volume of customer accolades.
5. Save money (and the planet!) when using QR codes for business
QR codes can also reduce your marketing collateral costs and create less waste to go into landfills. After all, printed marketing materials such as brochures, catalogs, ads, and signage can add significantly to your expenses. Just replace them with easy-to-access QR codes that direct users to online promotions, product information, or set-up instructions. Better yet, you can update information like images, pricing, and product details without having the hassle of re-doing the creative work and going for another print run. This allows you to keep your content fresh without having to constantly update physical materials.
Some caveats, but QR codes have much to offer small businesses
Although QR codes are quick and easy to deploy, small businesses must understand that they may not work for all types of customers. Older customers may not have smartphones. Other customers may be more comfortable doing things the conventional way. But increasingly, using QR codes as a means of communication and interaction will increase due to their cost-effectiveness and technological efficiency. Try it for yourself. There are many low-cost, easy-to-use QR code generator tools to experiment with. Check them out to see if QR codes will work for your business.
For more on small business, check out the Work section of the Quantum Fiber Explore blog. Here are a few to start with: