How Do QR Codes Work? (Techniques and Best Uses)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 24, 2021 | Published January 3, 2020

Updated August 24, 2021

Published January 3, 2020

QR codes are versatile marketing tools that allow you to share information with users quickly. You can feature these codes on flyers, posters, business cards, in-store signage and other marketing materials. This prompts the user to scan the image to learn more. In this article, we will help you understand how QR codes work and the best practices for using them.

What is a QR Code?

QR code stands for “quick response” code. This is a square image that contains data readable with a smartphone app. Digitally scanning the QR code prompts your phone to take one or more of the following actions:

  • Take you to a webpage

  • Show a message

  • Display an image or PDF

  • Generate an email or text message

  • Open a social media profile

  • Direct you to an online map

  • Prompt you to add contact information to your phone

  • Prompt you to add an event to your calendar

  • Take you to an app in the app store

QR code scanners are widely available as applications on most types of smartphones, so users can scan these images in just a few steps.

How do QR codes work?

QR codes feature large squares in three of the corners that provide alignment targets. The fourth corner features a smaller square that helps your phone align the shot. The remaining marks in the design contain formatting information and data. A QR code can hold 100 times more data than a traditional barcode.

When a user scans the QR code, their smartphone’s image sensor reads the information and the system processor interprets it. Users can scan a QR code from any direction for 360 degrees. Upon reading the barcode, your smartphone will produce the appropriate response, loading an image, directing you to a web page or otherwise responding to the information embedded in the code.

Best uses for QR codes

There are several ways you can use QR codes to further your marketing and communications efforts:

Dynamic online interaction

Dynamic QR codes allow you to edit the back end information for your QR code without changing the language that’s printed on your marketing materials. By creating a dynamic QR code, you can direct users to the most relevant webpage for your current campaign, editing the destination as often as you’d like, so you’re always delivering new content.

Instant communication

Design a QR code that generates a text message or email in which the user only needs to press “send” to connect with you or your company. A QR code featuring a contact card prompts the user to add your contact information to their phone. These actions make it quick and easy for potential clients to make the first contact.

Business card enhancement

Add an engaging digital element to business cards with a QR code that directs the user to your web page, professional profile or other sites. Your business card can connect users to a nearly unlimited amount of information.

Event promotion

Create a QR code that prompts the user to add an event to their calendar. Feature this on event flyers and posters to encourage users to put this reminder on their electronic calendars. The user’s calendar application may then further your marketing efforts by providing reminders as the event nears.

Related: Marketing’s Promotional Mix: Definition and How to Use It

How to make a QR code

Making a QR code is fast and simple, with a variety of web pages readily available to assist with the process. The following steps will help you understand how to make a QR code:

  1. Define the purpose for your QR code.

  2. Choose a QR code generator.

  3. Enter your information in the QR code generator.

  4. Customize the code’s appearance.

  5. Generate your QR code.

  6. Test the QR code.

  7. Share your QR code.

1. Define the purpose of your QR code

Evaluate your marketing strategy and determine what type of QR code is best for your needs. Each QR code generator has its own strengths, so you need to know what you want from your code. You should decide:

  • Whether you’re generating a static QR code that always performs the same action or a dynamic code that allows you to edit the destination

  • What action the QR code will prompt, such as creating a contact, opening a map or going to a webpage

  • What analytics you want to obtain from the code, such as the location, date and device used when the user scanned the code

Related: 7 Ways to Market a Small Business

2. Choose a QR code generator

The internet offers several QR code generators. These are often free to use, particularly if you’re generating a simple static QR code that performs a basic action, like directing the user to a webpage. If you want to gather analytics or use your QR code for direct lead generation, you may need a paid subscription to a QR code generator. Conduct an online search while referencing a list of your needs to find a QR code generator that can produce the response you’re looking for.

3. Enter your information in the QR code generator

Most QR code generators produce a simple form that you fill out to generate your desired code. You will typically select the type of code you want and provide details for the smartphone’s response, such as the webpage URL you want users to go to or the phone number and message that you want to use for text message generation.

4. Customize the code’s appearance

Depending on the generator you’re using, you may have several options for image customization. QR codes are traditionally black and white, but you can also generate codes in color or add imagery, such as your company logo to the center of the code.

Related: 4 Steps to Building a Brand

5. Generate your QR code

Once you’ve determined the appropriate settings for the code, your QR code generator will produce a scannable image. For printed QR codes, PDF, PS, SVG and EPS formats are typically best, as they will not pixelate when you zoom in, keeping the code stable.

6. Test the QR code

Scan the QR code with your smartphone to make sure it performs properly. If possible, use several phones and applications to verify the readability and functionality of the code.

7. Share your QR code

Print the QR code on your marketing materials to spread your message and begin directing users to the appropriate site or action to further your next marketing campaign.

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