QR Codes – 16 Awesome Uses


Quick Response codes  – QR codes – have been around for years.  They were invented in Japan in 1994 by Toyota and have been widely popular there for many years. They are just starting to gain traction here in the west for a number of reasons.  This all means that the time is ripe to use this incredibly stable and proven technology to bridge RL (real life) and VR (virtual reality).

I like to think of QR codes as “hyperlinks for meat-space”.  That is what they do.  They act like a link on the web – taking you to an information rich “location” – but doing so with the real, physical world as the starting place.

There are several factors which have combined to make right NOW as the perfect time for businesses to start exploiting this technology to foster community engagement:

First, information technology has evolved to make the creation of rich content an end-user activity.  Whether it is a flip style video-camera, great digital cameras in our cell phones, sites like flickr and picasa, blogging or tweeting, we make more content than ever before and – surprise – a lot of it is really good!

Second, mobile phones and tablets have combined to overtake PC based computing and the trend is only growing.  Mobile devices are hyper-ubiquitous.  That means not just that everyone has a phone, but everyone has one with them right now!  We are now spending more online time on our mobile devices than we are on your desktops and laptops.  That is because we’re an on-the-go society.

Third, enterprise information management technology such as document management, web content management and ECM have matured to such a level that putting up mobile-friendly websites that are designed for mobile consumption should be a no-brainer.  With micro-sites, personalization, segmentation and web experience management, there is no excuse for companies to NOT have the information I need ready for me on the device of my choice.

Fourth, there is so much information out there and our mobile devices are so powerful that we have a very reasonable expectation that whatever information we need is really out there – somewhere.  What we do not want to do is try and find it all.  We don’t want to wade through the swamp of the irrelevant.  Rather we want the right information for our context right now where we are at.

Here is an example from my real life.  I was recently attempting to repair a belt on my 5 year-old riding lawn-mower.  I was in my garage, I was dirty.  I needed to find the part number for the belt and the model number for the mower.  It took me 3 days to track down the correct part number including one errant order from Amazon.com of what I thought was the right part – but wasn’t.  What would have been great was the ability to scan a QR code next to the serial number on the mower that took me to the manufacturers web site where I could access the PDF user manual and locate the part number of the belt I needed.    But that did not happen.

Unfortunately, many organizations are doing the whole QR code thing WRONG!  They throw a QR code together and it goes to their old, un-optimized website.  This makes me and all other users cringe.  If their website is not ready to handle a mobile browsing or interaction experience, they do more harm than good.  You need to have an expert help you design the mobile experience that users want to engage with. 

BloomThink can help you.

Here is the list of 16 awesome use cased for QR codes.  Let me know what you think!

  1. Point of sale and customer satisfaction surveys – print the code on the receipt and encourage customers to scan and fill in right there rather than hoping they remember to type in that URL into their computer when they get home and then fill out your survey.
  2. Visitor attendance form for churches/synagogs/mosques – print it in the bulletin and encourage the congregation to scan and fill out.  It is less disruptive than the tearing of paper and hunting for a pen and the church secretary doesn’t have to try to interpret all those smudged scribbles on Monday.
  3. Links to videos about a particular location – like  a veteran’s memorial.  Does the city have a simple plaque there?  Link a QR code to a mobile-ready web site with videos of veterans in your community, neighbors talking about why they like living there and a photo stream of the memorial looking serene in all seasons.
  4. Photo stream of the inside of a home that is for sale.  Print the code on the “For Sale” sign out front.  Get the virtual tour right now.
  5. Link to a channel / website hosting customer reviews of your product.  Customers are talking about your products anyway.  Collect the best ones and bring them together in an iPhone or Android ready experience accessible from a sticker right with your product.
  6. Link to a video channel with your “DVD Extras” style videos about your company, product or process.  You’ve got a ton of video that didn’t make that final cut.  Use it for the extras and outtakes to show how cool your company culture is.
  7. Sell coffee?  Give me a QR code that goes to a web documentary on your roasting process and how awesome it is.
  8. Have equipment, books, or vehicles you lend?  Put a QR sticker on it and “check it in / out” by scanning it.
  9. Put a contact containing QR code on your business card, invoice, proposal, direct mailer or flyer so folks don’t have to type in your contact info into their phone, computer or tablet.
  10. Wine labels – labels are highly industry-regulated items.  Stick a QR code on the back, or on the shelf in front of the wine with additional content (might be from the maker, vineyard, distributor or customers) that talks about how great the wine is.
  11. User Manuals and Repair guides.  Put a QR sticker on that bike rack, some-assembly-required furniture, lawn mower, or trade-show-booth that goes to a PDF version of the user manual, repair guide or parts checklist.  How many times do we misplace the paper manual and spend way too much time hunting for it on google?  Wouldn’t the maker prefer that we have a great experience on their site getting help with their product?
  12. Travel a lot?  Hotels should have QR codes in *each* room that link to the room service menu.  Scan it and take it with you on your phone.  Order on your way back from that business meeting.  Then you’ll have a nice quiet meal waiting for you when you return rather that waiting ANOTHER 45 minutes to eat after you get back.
  13. Use QR codes at a location to have patrons scan and “LIKE” for Facebook, “Follow” or “RETWEET” on Twitter or “Checkin” on Foursquare.  Remember, QR codes are just hyperlinks therefore anything a URL can do a QR code can do too – on your phone, where you are, right now.
  14. Art installation – take a photograph of a particular spot each day for a year.  Or just one day each season.  Upload to your site.  Put a QR code on the bench, seat, picnic table where you took the photos.  Now everyone with a phone in their pocket can enjoy your perspective and art – whatever the season.
  15. Mobile downloads – QR codes can lead right to the download for your mobile app.  Put that QR code anywhere your target audience might be and encourage a download right now, where they are at.
  16. History, related and interesting facts about that museum exhibit.  Place a QR code next to the sculpture or paining.  Let visitors scan and learn about the artist, the history of the piece and what other interesting exhibits they might enjoy.  Incorporate visitor ratings to create a highly individualized museum tour based on what others who looked at what you looked at liked!

Contact BloomThink to put together your QR code strategy!