QR codes, or “Quick Response” codes as the abbreviation stands for, are becoming more prevalent in American life every day. They can be found on store windows, on the side of buses, at cash registers, and even in bathrooms. What are these things, and where are they all coming from is the question that runs through many of our minds. For the vast majority of Americans, QR codes are still new, but quick education and mass adoption seem to be under way.
QR Code Origins
QR codes were originally developed in Japan in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary primarily used for tracking parts of manufacturers. Ever since then, southeast Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea have been quick to adopt QR codes into everyday life. These special barcodes scan very fast and have the ability to display text, compose an email, link to a URL, or take a specific action if scanned within a particular application. The majority of mobile phones in Japan and South Korea have built-in QR code readers which almost instantaneously decipher and generate the link or action designed to take place.
QR Codes in the United States
The proliferation of QR codes in the US is still relatively new. Essentially, the “perfect storm” is brewing for QR codes in the US market. With smart phones that can read these special bar codes, the abundance of smart phones tethered to the internet, and the creative ways businesses are taking advantage of this technology with real-world implementations, QR codes are leading to mass adoption. The main hurdle in the US market is that the majority of phones do not have a built-in QR code reader; instead one has to download an external application which can decode these barcodes.
QR Codes for Businesses
The numerous advantages of QR codes to businesses and brands are becoming more evident. From outdoor advertising to in-store product information, these barcodes offer consumers a deeper and more integrated experience to connect with a brand. Advertisement and marketing on billboards, in bathrooms, and on the side of buses seem to be the most common place to find QR codes. Scanning these codes link users to either a company website, special discount code, or specific landing page. The other popular use of QR codes is to offer further information about a product. Scanning the code can link to the retailer’s online portal where you can buy the product online, scanning it within an app can bring up the product with a detailed description, or it can tell you more information about a business by scanning a QR code in the window of the store bringing up ratings and reviews. More recently, with the amount of information a QR code can hold and the multitude of possibilities it offers, businesses, especially technology companies are orienting QR codes to return a specific action, such as integrating with your Facebook account to ‘like’ a business after scanning the barcode.
QR code uses are still being developed and companies are coming up with creative ways to engage consumers through QR code scanning. As consumers become more educated and businesses become more savvy, QR codes look like they are becoming the new barcode of choice, so learn how to integrate and leverage their unique ability to offer your customers a deeper and better customer experience.