QR Codes – Best Business Practices

Woman doing sports stretching exerciseMobile barcodes, also known as 2D barcodes or Quick-Response (QR) codes, are fast becoming a foundational element of digital marketing.  They allow brands an instantaneous connection to their target audience.  Businesses have the opportunity to provide an engaging and interactive experience, all at the scan of a consumer’s cell phone.

While they are fun and cool in and of themselves, almost like a new toy for businesses and consumers alike, the need for businesses to use them effectively and wisely in order to achieve marketing success, as well as to promote the overall acceptance and success of mobile barcodes, is a serious matter.


1.Plan ahead.  These days, any mobile marketing campaign, whether through digital or traditional media, these days should be centered around mobile barcodes.  If the 2D barcodes are added as an afterthought, the campaign will probably not succeed.  Consider the mobile barcode as a key element of the campaign from its earliest planning stages.

2.Design with your consumer in mind. Don’t disappoint your customers by offering them a cool QR code to scan without any value or relevance attached.  Coupons, discounts, information, entertainment, and utility, are all possible ways to make the campaign a rewarding experience for consumers.  Keep your target audience in mind, and give them what they want in a way that suits your business.

3.  Design and placement. Consider the placement and design of thee mobile barcode as important as any other aspect of your advertisement.  Thoughtfully consider where the 2D barcode will be placed.  Make sure it is easy for the customer to scan.

  • For outdoor ads, make it at eye or arm level.
  • For print ads, make sure placed prominently on a flat surface, unhampered by folds or other obstructions, and surrounded by enough white space to be easily scanned.  A minimum resolution of 1×1 is suggested to comply with most mobile cameras.
  • For a screen environment, prominently display the QR code for at least 15 seconds to give viewers enough time to scan the code.  Also make sure the size is appropriate to the type of environment.  For example, will it be displayed on TV, in a movie theatre, or at a pro sporting event?

4.  Color. Print mobile barcodes in black and white to ensure successful scanning by the most mobile devices.  There are some proprietary mobile barcodes that use color, and these would be an exception to the rule.

5.  Branding. Again, to facilitate scanning success by most mobile devices, print your mobile barcodes without branding or images included or overlaid on the code.  Added graphics can damage the code’s integrity and make it difficult to scan.

6.  Open standards. Follow open standards (such as QR, Datamatrix) to ensure an optimal consumer experience.  Proprietary solutions may interfere with universal customer access, impacting market penetration and global reach.

7.  Education. Nearly half of the US population has seen and scanned a mobile barcode.  But it is still a new technology, and there is a need for an easily understandable, informative display of mobile barcodes.  Placing an explanation of what the code is, how it works, and what it offers the customer, will help promote consumer education and continued acceptance of the technology.

8.  Optimize for mobile. Make sure you’ve considered what consumers will get after the scan.  Consumers may quickly get frustrated trying to navigate a PC-designed web site on their mobile device.  The screen size of a mobile phone is obviously much smaller, those using their mobile devices are often ‘on the go,’ and they want quick access to information so they can get back to what they were doing.  To reach this audience, it is necessary for brands to offer a customized mobile experience that is cohesive, fun, and convenient, and rewarding to use.

9.Test and test again. “Dead links,” or codes that lead to the wrong URL, the wrong information, or no information, will give customers a bad impression of your brand as well as mobile barcodes in general.  Be sure to test for the correct resolution address.  Also test the mobile barcode with a variety of mobile devices and applications to ensure success for your audience.

10.  Define Your Objectives. In order to know how successful and effective your mobile barcode campaign is, you need to have clearly defined goals and objectives.  Barcode management platforms help you track analytics, time and location usage, in order to make smart purchase decisions, improve your message, increase the success and ROI of future campaigns, and continue to engage your customers with rewarding experiences.

11. Plan for consumer engagement. A customer’s first scan of your mobile barcode is only the beginning of the relationship, like the initial handshake.  Continue the dialogue and maintain the relationship by planning early and often how to engage them effectively, adding value with each interaction.


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