2-D Codes… Your Next Marketing Tool?

There’s been a bit of discussion of late around 2-D codes (often referred to as QR Codes).

QR CodesNo doubt many of you have seen them, those black and white squares that are appearing on everything from magazine pages to billboard posters. 2-D Codes have been popular in Japan for years and having won over the US are now entering Australia. With smart phone penetration already at 35% of online Australians* and projected to exceed 50% of all mobile users in 2013**, 2-D codes are set to become an essential part of your marketing toolkit. Yes, these 2D codes will be short lived and will be replaced quickly with newer technology like photo recognition, but there’s still a lot of relevance and opportunity to explore for 2-D Codes within Australia given many consumers still don’t know what they are. Our resident 2-D Code expert, Helen Kruger (@lanikruger) gives you the rundown on all you need to know to get started.

Once you have the basics, integrating 2-D Codes into your marketing campaign will be limited only by your creativity.

What is a 2-D Code?

2-D codes are two-dimensional barcodes that link Smart Phones to the Internet. When scanned with a smart phone camera they connect the user to a unique location on the web or download specified information directly onto the phone.

While there are many types of 2-D Codes the most widely used is the QR (Quick Response) Code, popular because it is free of any licensing restrictions. In addition some proprietary codes, with minor additional features, are also gaining prominence. These include Microsoft Tags, which is currently free, and ScanLife, which is free for personal use but charges a fee for business use.

Tip: Follow this link for a comparison of Microsoft Tags and QR Codes http://bit.ly/kCze83

Far more versatile than traditional barcodes, 2-D Codes can encode a range of information sources:

  • A URL link: Probably the most useful application for marketing purposes the code automatically takes the user anywhere you want. This could be your website, YouTube channel, Facebook page or Twitter account. It could start a video or audio sequence, or take consumers to your online sales page. Its only limit is the web!
  • Contact Information: Commonly used on business cards, the scanned code inserts your information directly into the scanning phone’s contact list.
  • Calendar Event: Insert an event and all details into the phone’s calendar.
  • Email Address, Phone Number or SMS: Directs the phone to automatically compose an email, dial a phone number or send an SMS to a defined recipient.
  • Geo Location: Links to a Google maps location.
  • Plain Text: Displays a plain text message.

Getting Started: Creating QR Codes

Creating QR codes is surprisingly simple. There are many free online tools that create unique QR codes and allow you to download them. It is simply a matter of finding the best one for your purposes. A couple of examples include:

Tip: If neither of these providers work for you a quick Google search for ‘QR code generator’ will guide you to hundreds more.

Reading QR Codes

Reading QR Codes is as simple as creating them. Users will need to download a QR Reader to their phone but again there are many freely available online. Some popular Readers include:

Tip: QR Codes are still very new in Australia so most consumers will need to be guided through how to use them. The more education you can provide consumers, the easier it will be for them to use. These sites provide a how to guide for use as well as links to downloadable readers: http://QRtag.com and http://QRme.in/

Possible Marketing Applications

Possible uses for 2-D Codes, from where to display them to what you link them to, are almost endless. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Offer consumers the ability to connect with you on social media sites: Create codes for users to instantly ‘like’ your Facebook page http://www.likify.net/, follow you on Twitter or sign up for your email newsletter.
  • Allow consumers to have a say at tastings: Connect to a review page where they can rate and review your wine as well as see others’ ratings and comments.
  • Have a personal presence at point of purchase: Codes on necktags, labels and in-store displays that link to a winemaker’s video on the wine’s characteristics, food pairing and cellaring.
  • Pair up with local businesses: Link to a downloadable regional tour with directions to tourist sites, suggestions of where to have lunch, listings of local businesses etc
  • Enhance the cellar door experience: Provide self guided tours of the vineyard, winery and cellardoor with 2-D codes providing information at sites of interest along the way.

Best Practice

  • Remember: Users will be on mobile phones so all URL links must be to a mobile friendly site NOT your regular website.
  • The shorter the URL the more readable the code so whichever Generator you use reduce the link with a URL shortener such as bit.ly first.
  • Use the code to add value, provide users with a reason to scan your code by giving them something more than they are getting at the stand or the cellar door.
  • Make sure there is adequate mobile coverage wherever you intend to use 2-D Codes. This is especially important in regional areas or at consumer events inside large halls.
  • Printed 2-D Codes, especially on wine labels, will be around for a while so ensure the link is kept live and updated so consumers are accessing relevant information.
  • Scan and test all codes in their final format before sending to print.
  • Track the results: This is essential to determine if your offering is working. If you don’t use bit.ly to create the codes you can still track traffic to the site through Google Analytics http://bit.ly/ieHTj9

Further Reading and References:

If you are interested in learning more about QR Codes or to see how other companies are using them the Mashable information resource on http://mashable.com/tag/qr-codes/ is a great place to start.

* Nielsen’s State of the Online Market: Evolution or Revolution? 9 March 2011 http://bit.ly/mEmmSm

** MobileSQUARED 10 Nov 2010 http://bit.ly/kn4rxZ