Everything you Need to Know About QR Codes

March 4, 2021
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All you need to know about QR codes | engage™

QR codes have experienced an impressive boost in popularity in recent years, moving out of the tech backwaters and establishing themselves squarely in the mainstream. We can now see QR codes almost everywhere we look, adorning everything from physical advertisements deployed on public transport to the pages of our favorite social media platforms.

But what are QR codes exactly? Why are QR codes so much better than something that is already familiar to us, like a barcode? And what is the potential of this interesting piece of tech innovation? We'll be answering all of these questions as we explore everything you need to know about QR codes.

The history of QR codes

QR codes -- or Quick Response codes, to give them their full title -- can trace their development as far back as the 1970s, when barcode technology first became ubiquitous in retail. It was not until 1994, however, that code scanning technology evolved into the form we know today. And the QR code was born.

This monumental event occurred in Japan and was initiated by Japanese automobile manufacturers in search of an efficient and effective way to keep track of parts in their facilities. Over the last two and half decades, these handy codes have made their way off the factory floor and into more widespread usage, as increasing numbers of business owners and customers tune in to the benefits that this technology offers.

Why are QR codes so important?

So what makes QR codes so revolutionary? After all, the code itself is basically just an extension of the humble barcode -- a user scans the code with a device, and the device will display the information contained within.

Well, this only tells part of the story. In fact, QR codes take this basic level of capability and expand upon it greatly. These codes are crucial for five main reasons:

1. They are far more powerful than their barcode predecessors

A barcode is simply a very basic graphic that represents a numerical value. This numerical value is loaded into a database and attached to other qualitative and quantitative values; for example, product descriptions and stock levels. A QR code can contain a far greater level of information, across many different mediums, including images, GPS coordinates, URL links and text files.

2. They can be accessed by almost anyone

Standard, unidimensional (linear) barcodes work just fine in a location such as a store, where there are pre-installed barcode scanners connected internally to a stock system. They are not so useful out in the wider world, where such technology is unavailable. QR codes can be accessed via a smartphone device. In 2020, there were close to 4 billion smartphone users worldwide, making QR codes far more broadly accessible. What's more, this number is growing year on year, which means increasing numbers of individuals are going to be able to utilize QR codes in the near future.

3. They can be deployed wherever they are needed

QR codes feature a singular look that is instantly recognizable among consumers. They can be deployed on any flat surface and protected from the elements by a plastic covering or lamination. This makes it easy for marketers, businesses owners, and anyone else with a message to deliver to get their information across quickly and easily.

4. They are quickly becoming universal

A survey from 2020 found that 83% of respondents had scanned a QR code at least once, with 72% scanning a QR code within the previous month. This demonstrates the high levels of engagement we are already seeing in relation to QR technology -- levels that look likely to increase in the coming years. Individuals across all age groups are quickly learning how to scan QR codes, and this is making them invaluable to marketers.

5. They work on any smartphone

QR codes are the only codes that boast native support for all smartphones models. All the latest smartphone models offer the option to recognize and read QR codes from their main menu, without requiring a dedicated code-scanning app. Browsers now offer this support, as well. Google Chrome for iOS, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Samsung Internet allow users to scan a QR code in the browser straight from their navigation bar.

QR code use cases

Cosmetic label with a QR code powered by engage™
A label powered by engage™ featuring a QR code

We've already looked at the benefits of a QR code, but can we use it in an effective manner? How can businesses and other organizations deploy the codes with optimal results? Let's take a look at some of the use cases for this handy piece of technology.

  • Provide more information to nurture leads -- An ad needs to be hard-hitting and impactful, but it also needs to carry a high level of information for those who want to access the product or service. The solution is a QR code. Engaged users simply scan the code to learn more, moving along the acquisition funnel as they do so, and all this is achieved without diluting key messaging.
  • Permit instant sign-ins from a smart device -- QR codes make it easy for users to sign in to systems and platforms with log-in credentials stored in their smartphones. Frictionless sign-ins are achieved, leading to an improved experience for your users.
  • Achieve immediate social media connections -- Users can scan one another's QR codes to immediately and accurately connect across social media platforms, making staying in touch simple.
  • Manage and analyze traffic from a specific geolocation -- QR codes can be placed in specific geolocations, and their scans can be analyzed to understand visitor traffic. This data can be used for traffic optimization in key areas or to gain crucial insight into the performance of different physical locations.
  • Facilitate network connections -- Visitors to an establishment can scan a QR code to connect to local Wi-Fi networks.
  • Open a menu to allow order placements -- Visitors to bars or restaurants can scan a QR code to open up a digital menu on their device. They can then place their order directly from the device.
  • Support immediate payments from authorized apps -- Payment apps and platforms can integrate with business payment systems to achieve secure and instant transfer of funds via smartphone devices. This can be deployed at the point of sale in-store to support simple transactions with customers, or it can be used to facilitate the private transfer of funds between individuals.
  • Achieve a robust response to global health concerns -- QR codes are already being used to verify vaccination statuses and to track the movement of people in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This capability could prove very useful indeed in the future of public health.
  • Verify the status of a product -- Users can scan QR codes deployed on product labelling and packaging and by connecting to product verification platforms such as engage™. Businesses register the details of their products on these platforms, which are then used to reduce instances of fraud and counterfeiting, protecting business profits, as well as consumer safety.

Take a tour of the engage™ platform and discover more about the potential of QR codes

The engage™ platform is designed to bring the very best out of QR codes, encouraging engagement on a mass scale through this innovative technology. Get a FREE DEMO of the engage™ app and platform and discover more about what this means for you, your business, your organization, and your future.

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