It’s 1992, and engineer Masahiro Hara at Denso Wave Inc. (Toyota Group Manufacturer) was assigned the task of solving the ongoing bar code issues occurring in their production line. Traditional bar codes, which were used at the time for parts in the factory, could only convert up to 25 alphanumeric characters’ worth of information, and read in a single, one-dimensional way—from side to side.
With production history and transport information needing to be communicated for each individual part on the production line, items began to contain multiple bar codes per part, causing major issues in scanning accuracy.
Through trial and error, Hara created the QR code. The QR code, which stands for “Quick Read,” allowed information to be read not only vertically, but horizontally (two dimensionally). While a barcode represented up to 25 characters, a QR code can go up to 2,500 characters.
Although the QR code proved to be much more versatile than the bar code, it had a slow rollout. At the time, many people generally couldn’t access camera phones and those who did had to download a third-party app to scan QR codes. It wasn’t until the iPhone update in 2017 when users could read QR codes by simply utilizing the iPhone camera app.
Back in 2010, the complicated process of reading a QR code was to point your camera toward a QR code, QR code doesn’t scan, and you remember you need a scanner app, search the app store for a QR code scanner, wait for the app to download, open that app, point the camera, scan the code, then, in all likelihood, find yourself on a website that’s not even optimized for your phone.
The present-day process for code reading is now reduced to just two steps: simply point your camera towards a code and engage in a unique customer experience. That’s why the reach and interactions with QR codes has found a resurgence in the last few years.
And since the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have worked hard to meet the desires and needs of users by integrating the QR code to create a more “contactless world.” From restaurant menus to ticket entry into events, the QR code has provided a safer solution to everyday interactions.
According to a 2020 MobileIron poll, 83% of respondents have scanned a QR code at least once, and 72% of people have scanned a QR code within the past month. And these numbers are currently rising.
In a recent survey by Statista, an estimated 11 million households in the U.S. alone were forecast to have scanned a QR code in 2020. This would have meant an increase from an estimated 9.76 million scans in 2018. Global Web Index found that 18% of code users were in North America. And the latest info from Scanlife found the majority of QR code users were ages 34 to 54.
QR codes today provide new opportunities for businesses to communicate with their customers. Businesses can now track which of their codes are scanned, who is scanning them, and how often they’re being scanned. This allows businesses the ability to fine-tune what they’re communicating to meet the needs of customers.
Now that QR codes are back, let’s look at a few tactics for making them work for you in your everyday B2B marketing.
Trade Show Booth
Trade shows are a vital marketing vehicle for attracting both new supply chain partners and new business. With that being said, it can be a challenge to meet with every single prospect at the show. Providing QR codes on your marketing materials, or even on panels of your booth, so prospects can engage with your brand without even having to strike up a conversation. The QR code could take them to a contact form on your website, or perhaps a YouTube video explaining more about your product or service. That connection becomes part of their phone history, giving them the ability to also view you outside the show.
What’s old is new again. Direct mail has found a resurgence during COVID-19 as we look for ways to break through and reach a prospect in both their work and home office. A QR code can be placed on direct mail to lead to a website, sweepstakes microsite, ordering form, sales video, or a variety of other touchpoints.
When you add QR codes to print marketing, you can not only track the conversion rates and fine-tune your campaign, but you also make the user journey that much easier. The code can lead to a variety of CRM forms, like newsletter or email signup.
Tiny but mighty. Besides your traditional contact info, consider adding a QR code that takes people to your LinkedIn page, so they can connect with you immediately and learn more about your relevant business experience.
As prospects or partners visit your company’s lobby, your brand can come to life through QR codes. Pictures on the wall of founders and products can be scanned that lead to videos to tell more of the story.
It’s been said that QR codes are yesterday’s technology. In reality, the black and white images were ahead of their time. As their usage continues to grow exponentially, so does marketers’ opportunity to leverage QR codes to engage their customers, drive sales, track action, and generate unique experiences.
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