Effective QR code techniques for your business
As the number of smartphone users continues to increase – Access Group recently predicted smartphones will overtake PCs by 2013 – QR codes are turning up in all sorts of odd places.
A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response) is a 2D barcode consisting of black modules on a squared pattern that usually encode a specific web URL, usually relating to a product or brand. Originally devised to help the Japanese automotive industry track components in factories, the codes can be scanned by a reader (or smartphone camera) to access data linked to the specific code pattern.
To scan QR codes, smartphone users will need to download a free QR code reader from a website such as Kaywa. The app scans the code and instantly fires up a browser pointing to the specified site, which can contain text or multimedia sound and imagery. Kaywa and other sites such as iCandy let you create your own QR codes that can be used for a wide range of marketing and promotion purposes. The UK ranks sixth for QR code use, and the distinctive square graphics are popping up in newspapers, on television, products and even business cards.
In response to a recent Any Answers query, AccountingWEB member ACDWebb showed one practical example, by creating one himself that takes you to our Any Answers page.
You can use QR codes to market your company in a number of ways. Rather than simply providing a link to your website (although if you do, remember to link to a mobile version of your site), QR codes are most effectively used to provide exclusive information to the user, such as giveaways, discounts or free tickets. As a firm, you can display your QR code on business cards, marketing materials and storefront windows but for most effective marketing, be creative with where you place them or what you link them to.
Bill Sheridan of the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) recently contributed an article to AccountingWEB.com discussing how CPAs there are using QR codes, for example:
- to direct prospective and current clients to resources that promote an area of expertise
- to send clients to a web page full of information and resources needed to prepare documents for their tax returns; and
- to send users an archive of social posts on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
On this side of the Atlantic, the responses to FirstTab's Any Answers post on the subject were more ambivalent.
“You could get the scanned code to automatically sign someone up to a newsletter or factsheets by getting the code to send them to a lading page which can read the information stored in their phone and obtain their email address,” suggested dbowleracca. “Convenience is everything in today’s society and if you can get them to your wait quicker and easier it’s got to be a good thing.”
Like ACDWebb, Lee Stevens conducted some experiments with do-it-yourself QR codes and found a use very similar to their original purpose in helping to compile a fixed asset register. Although he never completed it, he did print out codes and stick them on all his firm’s kit.
“This had a twofold effect - we found quite a few assets had been scrapped (usually broken PCs or printers) and now if we scrap or sell, for example, a printer of which we own five identical models, we can scan the QR code and we know exactly which one we are scrapping or selling and we can adjust our asset register accordingly.”
DerekBredensteiner was unconvinced: “Ugly QR codes are a bad image. And… where do you link it to that’s not useless?”
The QR code debate will no doubt continue for some time, but it is encouraging to see so many accountants taking an interest in the subject and considering how the technology might apply to their circumstances. Feel free to add your QR code examples and thoughts on the wider debate by commenting below.