In addition to sushi and bonsai trees, we can thank the Japanese for QR codes, those black-and-white patterned squares that have become ubiquitous.They were created in the 1990s by a subsidiary of Toyota, to track cars as they moved down the manufacturing line.They've been popular for some time there, but have only recently begun to be used in the U.S.
They're not all that different from the barcodes used on items in the supermarket, or from those on the back of books. What makes them more valuable though, is that they offer far more information in a similar amount of space.
Why All the Hoopla Now?
QR codes have finally come into their own because they've have moved from the province of the manufacturer or retailer, to that of the consumer. Mobile apps have made them customer centric. A shopper on a smartphone downloads a free app, like Red Laser, then uses it to snap a picture of a code, et voilà, the phone screen displays a wealth of information about a product or a service.
If you're a retailer, as you've already discovered with barcodes, this offers both positives and negatives.The downside is that armed with all that information, shoppers can quickly and easily find the same merchandise you're selling elsewhere, and possibly at a better price. Which of course means, they'll buy elsewhere.
But the upside is a stronger one, especially if you own a brick and mortar store. QR codes let you sell your merchandise 24/7.
Benefits to Retailers of Using QR Codes
For example, a window shopper out for a late night stroll or a pet owner up early taking care of Fido's needs, attracted by a display can easily find out out more about what caught her eye by simply scanning a QR code. That means, even when you're not officially open for business, you can still be selling.
You can also use them to create customer engagement, and possibly loyalty. When shoppers text your QR code, you can give them a discount coupon, or a free sweepstakes entry in exchange for their information.
Want to promote your business without making it so obvious that no one will want to use the product? Rather than run an ad all over a T-shirt or a coffee mug, a simple QR code, especially one inserted cleverly into a picture, will get the word out about your business.
No matter what you retail, you can use a code to fine tune the information you want to share about your merchandise. If you sell food or drink, you can include a recipe in the code. Apparel sellers can include a tip about how to dress for success. Own an art gallery? Give some information about the artist, or the particular piece, on a QR code.
They're inexpensive and easy to produce, and can be used on walls, windows, print ads, giveaways, social media sites, kiosks, or wherever you're imaginative enough to place them. They can even be used as a part of, or in place of business cards.
When you're ready to move to the next level of business, I suggest you check out QR codes.