As we bring in 2023, we’re all still coming to terms with the New Normal. Over the last few years, we’ve all struggled to find ways to adapt to the most turbulent times in recent history and small business owners have been hit especially hard.
Thankfully, the difficulties faced have produced several unique new insights into ways to market and grow a brand in an increasingly-contactless world. Now, anyone has the superpower to put links and data anywhere.
QR codes (fun fact, the QR stands for “Quick Response”) were first invented in 1994 by Japanese automaker Denso Wave to track parts in their factory. Since then, however, they have exploded into one of the most versatile tools for communication in the digital age.
In fact, QR code scans have quadrupled in 2022. There’s so much that QR codes can do—anything from providing a simple weblink to drafting and sending an entire email. Here are some of the best ways to get the most out of QR codes in 2023.
1. Add QR Codes to Products & Collateral
The beauty of QR codes is that they can be printed on literally anything—even the sky itself. As a result, they can be seen as a virtually free means of getting your content out there on any packaging or products you might already be selling.
Giving out a URL may be easy, but It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to navigate directly to a page with a subdirectory more than 100 characters long. QR codes can help you to direct people to the exact page that’s right for them. By providing would-be visitors a direct link to exactly what they need, you eliminate a barrier by removing the need for them to navigate your site.
One of the most successful QR code marketing campaigns of the last 10 years came from fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell. Way back in 2012, Taco Bell began placing QR codes on all of their taco 12-packs and drink cups linking to exclusive clips of NCAA Bowl games on ESPN. This campaign generated over 225,000 scans and was so successful that the next year Taco Bell began cooperating with the NBA to do the same thing. They weren’t even giving anything away or offering any prizes. People just wanted to see what the code linked to.
2. Connect Online & Offline Assets
Linking physical products and services to digital assets is one of the most important strategies for growth in 2023. Directing existing and potential customers to your products and information has never been easier. By including codes on physical product packaging, you can help your customers get the most out of their products. Link to specific instructions for a difficult-to-assemble item, direct customers immediately to product registration or warranty information, or just take them to your home page to show off all the other cool stuff you do.
And it’s not just physical products that can benefit, but service providers, too.
The hospitality sector has always been about making guests as comfortable as possible. One of the things that people have grown to expect and appreciate above all else in the last 21st century is convenience. Over the last few years, everywhere from restaurants to hotels to spas have begun incorporating QR codes into their daily operations.
Restaurants were one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic and they had to make several adjustments to stay afloat. In an effort to minimize contact between people, many restaurants ditched a traditional paper menu in favor of a digital one accessed by scanning a QR code. This same code can also allow patrons to order and pay with just a few taps. Responses to digital ordering have been rather negative, though, with nearly 90% of people stating that they preferred paper menus.
One ambitious idea would be to post a QR code that dives directions directly to your restaurant while also allowing guests to make a reservation and perhaps even place their order—all from one quick scan.
Change is slow, but as the interfaces that restaurants use with customers changes, so are attitudes. Many restaurants are still just using a PDF of their menu—not an easy thing to have to pinch, zoom, and scroll through on a small screen.
For their part, hotels have also embraced QR codes for nearly everything. Check-in, connecting to WiFi, and ordering room service can now all easily be done via QR scan.
3. Turn Freebies Into More Revenue
Everyone likes free stuff. What better way to get your product in front of eyeballs than simply giving it away for free? Freebies with a QR code printed are a fantastic way to build brand awareness and encourage people to check out your site. People are naturally curious but also typically lazy, and scanning a QR code printed on something is far easier and faster than manually entering a URL.
Giving out coupons with a scannable QR code that links directly to the product page while also applying a discount is a fantastic one-two punch for marketers.
But anything that you give out works as advertising and brand growth. freebies, bonus products sent to customers, and even souvenirs sent to partners around holidays can turn into a powerful promotional tool.
4. Make it Easy to Access You
Much like typing in a URL, manually entering an email address, Instagram handles, or LinkedIn profile can be tedious. People are unlikely to keep trying if they make a mistake the first time. QR codes eliminate this hassle entirely by giving your contacts a quick and reliable means of getting in touch with you.
By attaching a QR code to your email signature or business card, anyone can readily find the best way to reach out to you, learn about your company, or order your products.
Likewise, for printing a code on your business cards. Since QR codes are compact, versatile, and durable, they are an ideal addition to any communication you have with a potential customer or contact.
5. Create Interactive Content
However, QR codes don’t have to be a way to advertise. They can be a great way to provide truly interactive content for customers.
Modern technology allows you to create virtually any experience via a quick scan. Technically, it’s possible to store an entire game on a QR code that customers can scan and play with no downloads required.
One amazing idea would be a sort of digital scavenger hunt. Placing QR codes all around a convention, expo, or even via guerilla marketing makes it possible to create ongoing engagement with little to no upkeep costs.
6. Build Customer Loyalty Programs
Just like paper coupons, QR codes can be used to drive customer engagement. By placing a code on a storefront or product packaging, you can encourage customers to keep coming back by granting them access to special offers, discounts, and rewards—they need to create a free account.
For example, customers walk into a store and see a QR code, scan it, and are instantly presented with exclusive deals and discounts. They simply log in and select the offer they’d like. Once the purchase is finalized, they earn instant rewards redeemable on their next purchase by scanning the QR code to log in again.
This practice has long been used with physical cards held by customers, but those are easily lost or damaged. By offering the chance to log in instantly without needing extra items, customers are far more likely to take advantage of the service regularly.
It takes 3-5 purchases for a customer to feel a sense of loyalty to a brand so this kind of success builds on itself and pays off in the long run.
7. Use of Dynamic QR Codes
QR codes might all seem the same on the surface, but behind the scenes, there’s quite a lot of variety. Generally speaking, though, QR codes can be split into static and dynamic codes, each with its uses.
Static QR codes are what most people are probably familiar with. These link to a specific page, file, image, etc., and cannot be edited after creation. These are generally great for one-shot marketing campaigns or links to things that are unlikely to change, like your homepage.
Dynamic QR codes, however, are a bit newer and offer considerably more freedom. Once created with the help of an online QR code generator, a dynamic code can be edited or updated countless times, allowing for a wide range of marketing opportunities.
With dynamic QR codes, you can track the number of scans, location, date, device, time of the scan, and more. Further, you can direct users directly to an app like Instagram, Facebook, or even your own—static QR codes can only link to the browser version.
QR Codes in 2023
While QR codes may have been sidelined in the West for much of the first part of the 2000s, they’ve been picking up massive momentum recently and show no signs of going anywhere. Anyone with an online presence would benefit by using QR codes to bring their business model into the 21st century.