QR codes emerged on the marketing scene more than a decade ago, as advertisers eagerly picked up what seemed to be an easy means of encouraging the viewers of direct mail, handbills, and posters to an online destination. From Facebook events and Eventbrite booking pages to Etsy sites and SurveyMonkey links, QR codes seemed like the answer to marketers’ prayers.
Unfortunately, QR codes seemed doomed before they took off. They were hard to print or design around, and their configuration was permanent: any mistakes in your URL and you’d have to generate a new code. Worst of all, users had to download a special app to read QR codes. And as most marketers know, users avoid adding yet more complication to their digital lives.
Thankfully, QR code technology has improved greatly, and most smartphones now automatically scan the codes when the user hovers their camera app over them. Marketers have re-embraced QR codes as a way to drive consumers of their print media to their digital landing pages and social media profiles. Despite this revolution in QR codes, marketers should still keep some potential pitfalls in mind and follow these best practices to make QR codes work for them.
QR Code Minimum Printed Dimensions
It used to be the case that QR codes needed to be printed at fairly large dimensions to be effective. That’s changed for small-format materials such as posters and handbills, but increasingly, marketers are using QR codes on merchandising displays, billboards, or as part of a brick-and-mortar retail experience. Make no mistake: QR codes printed on these media still need to be printed in large dimensions.
A good rule of thumb is to determine the distance at which a smartphone user will be standing from the code, then divide by 10. That gives you the length of the printed code. For example, a shopper in your store will likely be standing about 10 feet from the code. That means it needs to be at least 1 foot wide to be scanned by their app.
You should also exercise caution when choosing the medium on which to print your QR code. Glossy papers tend to reflect light, which can prevent a user’s camera app from properly scanning the code. Opt for matte paper to achieve optimal scanning results.
QR Code Configuration Issues
Although QR codes’ destinations can be changed after the fact, it’s still a best practice to pay special mind during configuration. One common problem is that people will copy links from emails that aren’t the final destination of the link. Frequently, these links actually direct to spam-filter programs, app store redirect links, cloud-drive destinations, or other URLs that don’t represent the actual location of the resource. To ensure that you provide the current link, use the “share link” functionality of your browser or device, and ensure that you’ve landed on the final destination before attempting to generate the link.
Unlike coding HTML links, it’s usually not necessary to enter a handler, e.g. “mailto:” to a link. The QR code generator will configure that for you. If you’re directing traffic to a social media site or app store link, the user’s smartphone browser can parse the URL and direct them appropriately. That makes it easier for you, because you need only include the URL to the destination. Let the QR code generator and user’s browser handle the rest!
Some marketers are eager to capitalize on QR codes’ potential for their mobile users, but haven’t optimized their websites for those users. Desktop-only sites are still fairly common, but smartphone users who scan QR codes will be frustrated if a code directs them to such a site. Keep your target audience in mind and ensure that QR codes send users to content that is optimized for mobile.
It’s worth noting that QR codes can’t be used on mobile. A smartphone cannot scan what appears on its screen. In some cases, you may want to include a QR code on a webpage, e.g. if you want to direct desktop users to install your mobile app. Just ensure that your page does not display the code when accessed by a mobile user. That said, you should do this very rarely as there are usually more effective means of driving mobile signups from a desktop page.
Ideally, QR codes enhance a real-world user’s experience. You don’t want to use them in situations where most users would simply ask Siri about your company, or where accessing your social media profile is easy and convenient. Use QR codes as a means of offering secret, exclusive, or otherwise hard-to-get-to content. Think of them as a means of augmenting a customer’s reality, rather than doing things that the user would do anyway.
That’s not to say that QR codes can’t be used for convenience. In many situations, being able to scan a code and access a website is all that’s needed. The key is to deploy this technology in situations where the user would not otherwise find it easy to do, and make the digital destination something that adds value to the customer’s life or provides a compelling reason to further engage with your company.
As with any technology, QR codes require care and planning to achieve their optimal results. Their best practices revolve around simplicity: choose simple, clear URLs, give each code a simple purpose in your campaign, and make your landing pages simple and mobile-friendly.
Thankfully, it’s also simple to create and manage QR codes. Glyphics allows you to quickly generate dozens of QR codes for any digital destinations you may need, then update them on-the-fly. A convenient dashboard lets you see all the QR Codes you have created at a glance, which makes it easy for you to visually assess your QR codes map and expand your marketing strategy.