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QR Codes Demystified

November 14, 2011 By: Dave Dronkers


While everyone wants to know how to use Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and YouTube to better their online marketing strategies, in our work, the conversation inevitably turns to quick-response (QR) codes: What are they, and how should they be used?

Take a look at how two national restaurant chains deploy QR codes to promote their businesses.

• T.G.I. Friday’s uses QR codes on the backs of its children’s menus to engage guests and bring them to the company's Facebook page, which now boasts 740,000+ fans.
• An Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar franchisee used QR codes on table tents to help promote the 14-minute lunchtime guarantee, resulting in 43,000 scans and a website traffic increase of 9.8% during lunchtime periods.

Furthermore, a June study from Internet marketing research company comScore estimated that 14 million people (6.2%) of the total U.S. mobile audience scanned a QR code that month, revealing that QR codes are, in fact, being used by mass groups of consumers.

Given such potential to drive marketing and growth, why have QR codes remained a relatively niche marketing tool? Of the casual dining chain restaurants we surveyed, less than 5% had attempted to use QR codes, although 100% exhibited some type of Facebook and Twitter activity.

A lingering lack of education and prevailing misconceptions about the benefits and uses of QR codes at the consumer and operator level may provide the answer to that question.

So, let’s demystify QR codes, alleviate skepticism and confusion, and explain how QR codes can work for your establishment. Even if QR codes evolve into a different form down the road, understanding their potential now will put you ahead of your competition.

Basics: QR Codes 101

• QR codes are similar to the barcodes used by retailers to track inventory and price products at the point of sale. The key difference between the two is the amount of data they can hold or share.
• Bar codes are linear one-dimensional codes and can only hold up to 20 numerical digits, whereas QR codes are two-dimensional (2D) matrix codes that can hold thousands of alphanumeric characters of information.
• When you scan or read a QR code with your iPhone, Android or other camera-enabled smartphone, you can link to digital content on the web.

Getting Started With QR Codes

Before creating your QR code, define an objective you want to achieve. Do you wish to promote an event, offer customers digital coupons, link to your website or provide the public with an informational resource?

Decide what you would like to link to and how you will distribute the QR code. Some popular modalities of sharing QR codes include: print advertisements in newspapers and magazines, public transportation posters, business cards, pamphlets and menus.

Clearly identifying these goals before creating your QR code will help to ensure the success of your campaign.

Creating Your QR Code in 5 Easy Steps

You can download a free QR code generator online in just a few minutes:

1. This one by Kaywa is a popular choice, while websites like QRStuff.com allow you to manipulate color schemes for a more attractive image.
2. Download and print your code.
3. Download a free QR code reader (we like Kaywa, which gives users step-by-step instructions) onto your smartphone.
4. Test your QR code with your QR code reader.
5. Apply your QR code to items of interest and share them with the public!

While it is still early for QR codes, they are steadily gaining ground among consumers and marketers alike and are moving closer to widespread adoption. Stay ahead of the trend by incorporating QR codes into your marketing strategy. In doing so, you will expose your business to a wider network of consumers.

If you want a complimentary list of 10 effective QR Code promotions for your restaurant or bar, contact Dronkers Solutions at ddronk@gmail.com.


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