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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Slepian

What are QR Codes and are They Beneficial?

You’ve probably seen the black-and-white quick-response (QR) code boxes on advertisements, menus, and sometimes even television ads. Hover your phone camera over the code and it takes you immediately to the menu page, scheduling service, or website. QR codes aren’t new technology, but they are more recent than, say, bar codes. Today we’ll talk about what exactly QR codes are, whether or not they’re beneficial to businesses, and how you might be able to use them in your own advertising.

What are QR codes?

QR codes had a slower start, then picked up over the past few years. They first appeared in the mid-90s, but weren’t introduced to mainstream consumers until 2010. They gained traction a few years after that, and became an easy no-contact way of ordering food and products during the pandemic.

A QR code is a scannable, machine-readable code, somewhat like a barcode. QR codes can be scanned and connected to a website or form, and are used to store URLs. This means a consumer can easily scan the code with their phone when there isn’t a URL to click on. These can be used on in-person ads, banners, menus, and ads for reaching a website when you aren’t already online. People will also put QR codes onto physical forms to easily link to a relevant site with more information. Think pamphlets, flyers, and business cards, or even posters in shopping areas. During the pandemic, restaurants would place QR codes on tables or at the counter that linked to a menu page you could read on your phone. This helped avoid handling menus and keeping contact lower, and some restaurants and bars still do this to streamline the ordering process.

How are QR codes beneficial?

QR codes are basically like a shortcut, used to provide more information about the product or service without having to type a URL or remember to open up a website later. It’s a seamless way to get a consumer from viewer to engaged customer, sending them to the right webpage with one step. QR codes are beneficial because they encourage the next step in a service or purchasing process, transferring information and promoting interaction.

QR codes can be beneficial to businesses looking to get users to schedule a service, learn more about their company, or purchase a product. They are a versatile way to encourage engagement and can be used for pretty much any business who has a website and wants to bring in viewers to their site and future action items from in-person ads or television.

How do QR codes work with TV ads?

Using QR codes in TV ads is one of the newer formats for this strategy of advertising. A shoppable QR code is similar to the codes you see on print ads or business cards—they’re meant to take you to the exact site mentioned on paper. But on TV, these codes are meant to take you to the shopping page for what you’re seeing. This is an integration of web ads and television ads, and if it picks up, it could be a huge boost in click-throughs and engagement. Oftentimes there’s a big lag between a consumer seeing a television ad and actually taking the next steps to visit the website and learn more. A QR code on the television ad can eliminate this gap, making it easier to bring the consumer from a viewer to an engaged participant.

Think of this sort of like the next step in having a phone number displayed at the bottom of a screen. Instead of a phone number, a QR code is displayed, so as long as the advertisement is playing, viewers have the chance to pull out their phone and scan the code to pull up the website. This might be for the commerce page of the product, a page with more information, or the page to schedule a service.

How can you use QR codes in your own ads?

QR codes can be easily generated via a variety of websites. You can make a code link to just about anything for your business or service, even a downloadable PDF if you need to have forms filled out. QR codes are a versatile way of gaining engagement without making extra steps for customers, and will work for any business where you’re advertising a service or product.

If you have a TV ad promoting a specific product, you can make your QR code link to that product. If your ad is about scheduling a service, the QR code can take them right to the scheduling page. These are versatile, interactive, and easy to use.

The only limitations of this kind of advertising is that the commercial will usually have a short run time, so the viewer has limited time to grab their phone and scan the code, and sometimes QR codes on a screen are harder for smartphones to read. Because of this, it’s important to have an additional call to action or easy-to-remember information to supplement the QR code. Don’t think of the QR code as a replacement for your other calls to action, rather an easy go-between step to grab people’s attention for the next step before your ad fades from their minds.

QR codes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we’re seeing more and more of them in all forms of advertising. While they might have started out as an easy way to get people from a print ad to a website, their use in television advertising is growing, and can be an easy way to promote action and engagement for your business.

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