QR Code exampleI’ve been doing a lot of research on QR codes lately, and I’m excited by the possibilities of them for mobile marketing. Today I sent out a Tweet about how I love QR codes. I quickly got a response from @michaelbeaton:

To be honest, I don’t understand the attraction. A bar code with more info?

I wanted to respond, but felt that 140 characters wasn’t enough room, so I told him I’d write this article in response, and hopefully help others understand what possibilities QR codes open up.

First, a brief explanation: A QR code is a bar code that can hold quite a bit of information. A bit over 4K of alphanumeric information in its normal implementation. That’s a lot of text. In addition, it was designed to be decoded very quickly (the “QR” stands for Quick Response). It’s a perfect way to get a lot of information very quickly to a mobile device.

In tests with my T-Mobile G2 smartphone, I was able to decode QR codes while walking. I didn’t even have to stop to scan it; it was that quick. That means you can shuttle a lot of information to mobile users without interrupting them.

Here’s a perfect real-life usage example: You can encode an industry-standard vCard in QR code format; all of your contact information can be encoded in a tiny square. Want to share that contact info with someone? They can simply scan the QR code (which recognizes it as a vCard) and any modern smartphone will automatically add it as a contact. That’s a LOT easier and faster than typing in someone’s information (as well as more accurate). QR codes on business cards are a perfect use for the technology.

Another fantastic use is in mobile marketing. On the front page of today’s issue of USA Today, TAG Heuer and Jared are using a QR code from Tappinn in an advertisement. Scanning the code takes a mobile user to a mobile website specifically designed to help Jared (a jeweler) sell TAG Heuer watches.

Another use would be geo-location games such as SCVNGR. SCVNGR allows QR code challenges; which means a player could be tasked with finding a QR code in a physical location somewhere. Imagine a savvy small business using SCVNGR to have people come into their stores, find a QR code hidden somewhere, and getting a discount, coupon, or prize for scanning it. The business owner can design the experience such that they can lead the customer through specific parts of their store. That’s far more engaging than any other form of mobile marketing.

QR codes eliminate the need for a mobile user to type things into their phone, which is a huge convenience and time-saver. Anything that you would normally type in (names, addresses, URLs, access codes, answers, contact information, etc.) can be entered simply by scanning a box in seconds.

The playing field is wide open for QR codes. Savvy and smart marketers will figure out new and amazing ways to use them for engagement, especially as people get more and more used to seeing and interacting with them.

QR code scanners are available for all smartphone platforms. QR code generators are freely available on the web as well.