What is a QR code and how can I use them in my business?

You've probably seen those funny-looking square barcodes in magazines or online. You know, the ones that look like a monster from an 8-bit Atari game with black squares on 3 corners? You may be wondering what exactly are these codes? Well, they're called "QR codes" and they can be an internet marketer's best friend.

QR stands for "quick response" and when a QR code is scanned by your mobile device, the QR code transmits information and/or media and puts it on your device. For example, you can scan a QR code and instantly download an app to your phone, or be taken to a website.

QR codes differ from standard barcodes in many ways. The most important distinction is that while standard barcodes can require a clunky scanner to be read, most smartphones can read QR codes with a simple, lightweight app installed.

Some of the basic uses for QR codes includes:

  • Providing coupons or vouchers to potential customers
  • Providing information about your company's current promotion
  • Allowing a quick download of your company's app for Android or the iPhone
  • Playing a targeted video from YouTube upon being scanned

When it comes to QR codes, the possibilities are virtually unlimited.

The biggest benefit of a QR code is that using them makes it easier for people to access your content. For example, if you print a QR code on your business cards that is programmed to take the user directly to your website, you don't have to worry about the user mistyping your domain name.

Scanning a code from a business card is much easier for the user than manually typing in the website address.

Another potential use for QR codes on a business card is to program the code to take the user directly to your affiliate link. This can come in handy if you pass out business cards for a product or service you are marketing, and you want to be sure you get the credit for your affiliate commission.

With a printed affiliate URI, people you hand your card to may not want to type in your affiliate URL and might instead just visit the main website, stripping you of your commission.

Many affiliate programs use cookies to track referrals, so if you replace your typed affiliate URI with a scannable QR code, your potential customers have no choice but to scan the code and download your affiliate cookie!

There is a downside, however, to only providing potential customers with a QR code and not a fully printed URI. If someone does not have a smartphone capable of scanning the code, they will be unable to locate your website and will likely lose interest in your product. So before you switch to only printing codes on your business cards, keep in mind that while the codes are very convenient for users – at this point in time they are best used as a supplement to traditional ways of providing information, and are not yet a replacement.


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