Many marketers remember QR codes, those Rorschach-like blobs that peppered posters and other signage. They were a useful tool to drive smartphone-wielding customers to a website or social media page. There were just a few problems: users had to download a special app to capture the QR code, and QR codes lacked the flexibility that most digital platforms allowed. However, QR codes have enjoyed a resurgence, thanks to iOS’ instant recognition feature and the increasing popularity of enhanced real-world experiences. Now, QR plays a crucial role in connecting the physical realm with a user-friendly digital experience. That means there’s no better time to implement QR for your business.


A Brief History of QR Codes

A Quick Response code (abbreviated “QR code”) originated in the Japanese automotive industry, where it permitted easy tracking of parts in a complex factory environment. Businesses that needed to quickly access location information for multiple digital documents quickly seized upon the technology, and marketers followed suit. QR codes began to appear throughout the physical world, on posters, brochures, product packaging, and advertisements. There was a tremendous appeal in converting print-based consumers to the cost-effective and flexible digital experience.

Unfortunately, QR codes failed to perform in their awkward lifespan between the mid-1990s and post-millennium glory years. There were too many mishaps, whether due to printing errors or the technological hurdles needed to make them work. Also, they failed to store enough information to be effective even in their original factory usage, and they were easily distorted or misread.


The QR Code Comeback

That changed in 2017, when Apple enabled the iPhone camera to instantly recognize and act upon a scanned QR code. At the same time, there was a surge of interest in augmented reality. Suddenly, bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms was not only convenient, but also a key marketing tactic.

Nike’s flagship store, House of Innovation 000, garnered praise for its immersive retail experience, in which customers can gain access to specialized product recommendations and expedite their checkout. This “smart store” experience is brought to you by QR codes that allow shoppers to use their smartphones as a fast, specialized personal assistant. At this store, QR codes fulfill their promise of being a link between the real world and a flexible digital experience. The key is that the infrastructure is geared toward convenience, rather than merely conversion.

Plus, QR generator companies refined the technology to allow more information to be stored in the QR codes — even if they weren’t printed at astronomical proportions. In time, QR codes could also be produced with colors or even logos, thereby allowing marketers to retain their branding while ensuring a consistent user experience for anyone who scanned the code.


QR’s Potential in Current Marketing

Now, marketers are using QR codes to capitalize upon contemporary consumers’ tendency to have their phones perpetually in hand. It’s easy to scan QR codes and gain access to customized landing pages that highlight product features, recommend related products, or offer advice. QR codes have become a crucial tool in the latest retail trend of ultra-customized shopping. With QR codes, marketers can help guide the customer journey by placing the codes directly on product packaging or merchandising displays.

As with the Nike store, QR codes are also adorning walls of innovative store locations that wish to go beyond the brick and mortar and provide a rich-media experience for their customers. As the technology has improved, QR codes are now capable of much more than simply directing users to a landing page. They can handle multiple end-user interactions to provide a “smart” experience for consumers in situations where they can’t use their home AI.

Finally, QR codes can boost the conversion of print-based consumers to digital customers by enhancing direct mail and flyer campaigns. Print media are a highly effective means of advertising, but the costs remain steep. By adding QR codes to the brochure or poster, marketers can encourage viewers to access additional products, specials, and other information that makes them more likely to make a purchase.


What’s Next for QR?

QR is poised to become an essential tool in any company’s toolkit. Service-oriented businesses can use QR codes to facilitate check-ins, appointment scheduling, and feedback, or offer an augmented reality experience to encourage customers to book. 

Now that QR codes are easily generated, customized, and tracked, there’s immense potential for marketers to use QR as a means of improving their advertising strategy. QR not only converts print consumers to digital ones, it allows marketers to analyze how and when this happens. QR also permits companies to offer customized experiences and product recommendations to its customers, then evaluate the effectiveness of their retargeting efforts. In short, QR is the missing link that is necessary to fully align print and digital marketing — and provide the data that’s needed to optimize both.


How Do I Get Started?

Getting started with QR codes is as simple as heading to Flowcode.com and entering the destination to which you want to send your customers — whether it’s an email, phone number, website, or social media profile. Best of all, you can always edit your QR code after the fact, in case you made a typo, changed your phone number, or want to send print media consumers to a new landing page. The beauty of QR codes is that you can create as many as you’d like for dirt cheap, print them on any tangible item you like, and retain full control of their destinations — even after they’re printed. That’s Harry Potter-levels of magic, and it’s technology that’s free and accessible to you, no matter your company or industry. QR codes are poised to revolutionize commerce, so bring them into your toolkit today!