Promote your products and services in China, and you’ll need a QR code or two. There, in the world’s most digitally-advanced country, QR codes are used for virtually every aspect of digital life, from paying for goods on WeChat Pay to adding a new friend on Weibo or even ordering food at KFC.

Simply put, they’re everywhere and make it easier for consumers to connect with their friends and with brands, and spend money without tackling friction points.

Here in the West, however, QR codes are still considered to be something of a fad. However, whilst they have traditionally been used for gimmicks, they’re beginning to make a comeback as a genuine marketing tool, and businesses are cottoning onto their potential.

And with both Apple and Google introducing native QR scanners on their iOS and Android operating systems, there’s never been a better time to piggyback off of their rising popularity – and fast!

Today, we thought we’d put together just some of the ways you can use QR codes to market your products and services in 2019 and beyond, taking a leaf out of China’s book…


What’s a QR code?

Before we get started, a quick history lesson on QR codes. Back in 1994, Denso Wave – a subsidiary of Toyota – created the code to aid in their manufacturing process, speeding up their ability to track vehicles and parts on site.

The code was designed to allow for fast decoding speeds, so it was named a Quick Response Code, and it soon took off.

Since then, as technology advanced, the QR code concept was brought to the wider world to accommodate the growing demands for storage capacity, functionality, and accuracy, and the modern QR code was born.

Today, those square pixels can be scanned using a phone or tablet to connect to websites and collect information, whether that’s opening an app, getting access to WiFi, or even directing someone to your retail store using Google Maps.

As a small or medium-sized business owner, using QR codes to promote your products and services makes sense; you just need to dangle a carrot to encourage customers to engage.


Plaster QR codes everywhere

The chances are that you’re still using printed material like business cards and flyers as part of your marketing strategy, so add QR codes and direct people to a landing page, where you can collect their information for digital marketing purposes.

A code on your business card, for example, could link to a landing page built just for you, encouraging users to message you or subscribe to your newsletter.

Want to keep it simple? Send them to your LinkedIn, instead.

QR codes can also be effective when used on packaging. At Zudu China, for example, we use QR codes as part of our anti-counterfeiting strategy, encouraging customers to verify the authenticity of their products and report any fakes in the process.

It’s a great way to engage your buyers, make them part of your story, and collect their contact details in the process.


Give directions

Want to encourage people to visit your physical retail store? Add a QR code to your printed marketing materials – leaflets, posters, newspaper adverts – and send them to Google Maps, where they can drive or walk to your store.

Add a call to action so people know what they’ll get when they scan and incentivise customers to use your QR codes by offering them a free product or sample when they arrive, as they’ll likely have visited your website or signed up to your newsletter in the process.

This also works well at festivals, conferences and exhibitions. Users can scan a code to find out where your stand is located – great for increasing footfall.


Offer free Wi-Fi

Run a cafe, restaurant, clothing store or work in a public space? Offer free Wi-Fi to your customers and ask them to scan a QR code to visit a landing page, where they can enter their email address to get access to your network. A call to action such as ‘scan this for free Wi-Fi’ works well, and allows you to collect information for future re-marketing purposes, too.


Use augmented reality

Consumers are increasingly turning to augmented reality when purchasing goods and services both online and offline – and QR codes go hand in hand for increasing engagement and sales.

Whether you run a museum, an educational space, a fashion house or an interior design business, integrate your augmented reality app with your QR code and allow users to scan a code to try on a dress, see whether a table would suit their dining room, or find out more information about an exhibit.

Ensure your app is free, remove sign-up forms and think about investing in a hybrid web app rather than a downloadable iOS/Android app. Make the process simple and straight-forward; a frictionless experience will increase engagement.


Integrate your app/desktop experiences

If you’ve ever used WhatsApp for Web, then you’ll be all too familiar with its QR code system, which allows you to log into your account using your smartphone.

The WhatsApp app on Mac or web displays a QR code which you must scan from within your WhatsApp app on your phone, and you’ll immediately gain access to your conversations and contacts.

It’s a seamless way to carry the experience from one device to another, which not only increases dwell time but boosts awareness and customer retention.

Integrate the technology into your app, whether you’re offering a B2C app or you’ve built an enterprise app for your business, and you’ll soon feel the benefits of offering a cross-platform experience.


Accept payments via QR codes

Whilst contactless payment providers like Apple Pay and Google Pay don’t integrate with QR codes just yet, the technology is prevalent in China, with millions of WeChat Pay and AliPay transactions processed every day via QR codes.

You can still take advantage of similar tech in the UK – if you run a restaurant, for example, you can add a QR code to their bill and let them pay via your smartphone app or via PayPal, which offers a QR code API for merchants.

It’s a great way to build upon relationships with customers after their purchase. Encourage them to submit an email address to have their receipt sent, or use PayPal to collect email addresses from transactions, and you can send promotional materials to increase their chances of returning to your store or restaurant, but remember to follow GDPR guidelines.


How do I make a QR code for my business?

It’s estimated that there are more than five billion QR codes in existence, and the technology means we can create virtually endless combinations before a new, more complex QR code system has to be introduced.

That’s because the largest QR code can store around 15,000 bits of information, which (according to computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha) can be arranged in 2.817960879631397637428637785383222308241674912977296×104515 ways. That’s a boatload of possibilities – so we don’t have to worry about running out soon!

It’s possible to create both static and dynamic QR codes. The first links to one URL forever and cannot be changed, whereas the latter is editable and can be changed – great if running a “scan here to see our latest offers” type promotion.

Just head to a QR code generator tool like QR Code Generator, GoQR, Beaconstac, or Canva’s QR Generator – all these are free but read their terms to understand what data they collect on your users and consider software that tracks scans and monitors usage.


Wrapping up

There you have it – a brief introduction to QR codes, and some potential use cases for your business. QR codes are a brilliant tool for marketers.

They allow you to push users towards sales funnels or marketing channels without displaying long URLs or complex information on your printed or digital marketing materials – you’ve just got to be creative to make an impact!

Use QR codes to link your website, apps and offline marketing materials, and you’ll soon be collecting information, increasing brand loyalty, and selling more products and services.

If you need help with app development or want to incorporate QR codes into your website, get in touch with the experts at Zudu, and consider our Chinese digital marketing services if you want to reach more than 1.4 billion potential customers in the world’s fastest-growing economy where QR codes are not just a unique marketing technique – they’re the norm!

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