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Is your business effectively using QR...

Is your business effectively using QR codes?

By: Phil Hardwick - October 6, 2023

Columnist Phil Hardwick says the best way for your business to use QR codes is to give people a reason to click on them.

In a few days, I will be heading out to a beautiful venue in rural Mississippi where I will facilitate a leadership retreat for a long-time organization client. At this retreat, I normally hand out my business card to each of the participants. This year I will do something different. I will only be taking one business card to the retreat. I will pass it around the room and invite each attendee to scan the QR code on the back of the card to instantly download my contact information into their contacts app on their devices. Alternatively, they can simply hold the card up to the back of their cell phone and it will display my contact information. 

How is this possible? It’s all about QR (Quick Response) codes and technology. 

According to an article online by Brittanica, QR Codes were developed in 1994 by the Japanese corporation Denso Wave—a division of Denso, which is a subsidiary of the automobile company Toyota Motor Corporation—to track automobile parts during the assembly process. They developed an image of black and white squares on a white background that contained a code that could be read quickly by a scanner. 

It wasn’t until 2011 that QR codes began to become widely used. That’s when most smartphones started being able to read them with their cameras and QR readers were developed as a downloaded app.

Now, QR codes have become ubiquitous. They are everywhere. Take a look at the next package you receive. Chances are it has a QR code instead of a bar code. That’s because QR codes can be scanned and can hold more data in less digital space than bar codes. Two-dimensional QR codes can store 350 times as much information as a traditional one-dimensional barcode.

During the pandemic, many restaurants ditched physical menus altogether in favor of either QR codes in tabletop displays or taped directly onto tables. At some restaurants you not only view the menu from a QR code, but you also place your order, send it to the kitchen, and complete payment – all touchless, all from your phone, all originating with a QR code. According to information on the website, 52% of restaurants in the U.S. have implemented QR code menus. And it’s not just QR codes in restaurants. At Olive Garden, customers find a device on their table that lets them play games while waiting for their food and pay for their meal without even asking for a bill.

At airports, you don’t need a physical boarding pass anymore. Yep, most airlines now use QR codes for mobile boarding passes through their mobile apps.

Statista shows retail QR code use is on par with restaurant usage. Retailers like Starbucks, Target, Walmart, and Macy’s offer the use of quick, cashierless payments using QR codes. 

And talk about creative uses. One day I saw a guy walking around a store with a QR code on his T-shirt. I wondered how many people took a picture of it. I came away, thinking he should’ve put it on the back of his tee shirt because that way more people would take a picture of it. I’ve also seen QR codes on backpacks. 

In short, I’ve seen them everywhere. My wife and recently came upon a musician busking away on a downtown street in our hometown. His singing and guitar picking was exceptional. I decided to leave a tip. On the sidewalk beside him was not only a tip jar but a sign with a QR code on it and the words, “Tip Me.” I pulled out my trusty QR reader, scanned away, and was taken to the opportunity to leave him $2.00, $5,00, or any other amount I so choose. Also, there was the opportunity, not a requirement, that I leave my email address in case I wanted to be on his list.

Predictions are that QR code usage will continue to grow. Statista estimated that by 2023, about 89.5 million Americans would scan a QR code using smartphone devices. Usage is projected to reach 99.5 million in 2025.

So, how can your business or organization use QR codes? 

The best way to use QR codes is to give people a reason to click on them. For example, businesses that have booths at trade shows learned quickly that merely clicking on the QR code that took potential customers to their website wasn’t very effective. However, a QR code registering for a drawing to be held at the show increased usage exponentially. 

QR Codes can also be a tool for scammers. One clever scam involves leaving an unordered package on someone’s doorstep that has a QR code and the notation, “Scan here for contents.” In many cities, there are parking meters that have a QR code on them for making payments. Be careful that the code hasn’t been taped over or altered. Gas stations are also a place to be wary of this scam. 

In summary, QR codes are a growing tool that has many uses. I trust this column will inspire your business or organization to explore how QR codes could be of benefit.

About the Author(s)
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Phil Hardwick

Phil Hardwick is an award-winning business columnist and semi-retired economic developer. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Millsaps College Else School of Management for many years. He has taught over 1,000 students, written over 800 columns, written 11 books and assisted over 100 communities and organizations with strategic planning. In February 2016 he was inducted as a Lifetime Member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council.