Using QR Codes to Push Mobile Business

Still delaying a mobile version of your online store or web site? If my previous post hasn’t convinced you, maybe QR Codes will. After all, people are already using them to find hidden goodies – like Calvin Klien’s uncensored video showing off their new jeans.

A Quick Response (QR) Code is a two-dimensional scan code that is similar to UPCs and other barcodes. However, rather than bringing up product names and pricing, the QR code can be used to create an interactive experience.

Originally designed for tracking parts in manufacturing, QR Codes are becoming increasingly popular in advertising and content pushing on mobile devices.

Here’s the QR Code for this site:


When a picture of this code is captured, software (or smartphone apps) can read all those blocks and return information. In this case, on a mobile device you would be directed to the home page of my web site.

You may not have even noticed this type of code on various magazine pages, store signs and even on web sites. That’s because, until now, they’ve been used pretty, well, quietly.

How it works

Users snap pictures of the codes with a smartphone. The image is then scanned and read by a QR Code reader and the associated information is returned.

Calvin Klien created a QR-Code Billboard
Calvin Klien ran a test campaign that featured a billboard sporting a QR-Code.

Who uses QR Codes?

Companies include QR Codes in advertising, on products, and on some web sites. Some Android apps can be downloaded to phones after the user scans a QR Code off a developer’s web site.

They can also be seen on store signage, and just this month Calvin Klein ran a test campaign on billboards in New York and Los Angeles. Because people would need to snap pictures from vehicles, the QR Code was rather large. So large, in fact, it was the focal point of the sign.

Why would I use QR Codes?

Simple. To direct customers and potential customers to specific content (usually in the form of web pages) or information. For example, I could create a QR Code that provides all my contact info to the scanner. Or, I could configure a code to launch a YouTube video.

QR Codes can save time because people won’t have to remember a domain name or re-enter information into their smartphone. The ability to snap a picture on-the-go means people can later recall – and even look up – information on that business they saw advertising in the local airport.

QR Codes can connect smartphones to wireless devices.

Though originally introduced in 1994, until recently they were only popular in Japan. But with more and more countries, especially the US, embracing the smartphone market, companies are seeing greater potential.

QR Code reading and deciphering isn’t foolproof. There’s not yet a true set of standards governing how apps read and relay information. That, and, the reliability is also dependent on the user taking the picture. Lens flares and blurry images cause problems, so users have to be trained on how to take appropriate photos of QR Codes.

Taking the photos isn’t difficult, though. After reading directions in the app on my Palm Pre, I got a successful scan on the first try.

Would I include a QR Code on my web site?

You could. Let’s say you want to direct the visitor to a mobile document, or a mobile-based interactive video. A QR Code is quicker and easier because there’s no “typing” of URLs or other information.

If you have a smartphone and code reader app, snap a shot of my QR Code above and you’ll see what I mean.

Which smartphones support QR Codes?

Most all of them. Android phones have a built-in reader, while Palm webOS and iPhone users can download QR reader apps.

With this newer-to-us technology, you can get more creative with the content you provide and to whom. People can still, however, share special URLs via social media, so the codes are better used as a quick delivery system.

QR Codes can be placed just about anywhere, including:

  • In the footer of invoices to reward customers by directing them to exclusive content.
  • On the bottom or back of promotional giveaways.
  • In print advertising.
  • On a bumper sticker.

And, best of all, there are plenty of free QR Code generators, like the one at KAYWA. Simply enter a specific URL, phone number or custom text (this one’s limited to 250 characters) then reference the image.

But don’t expect a flurry of new shoppers or visitors right away. QR Codes are still labeled as geek-friendly. However, in due time, they’ll become another popular piece of technology everyone just has to use.

I do have one plea, though. I don’t want to see photography and artwork replaced by giant QR Codes on highway billboards. Long drives can be boring enough.

Next Up: Microsoft Tag: Microsoft’s advanced take on the QR Code

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  • margaret

    thanks for the tutorial … have left WebOS for the moment – my eyes are too old to focus on my beloved PalmPre’s screen – but my new HTC EVO4G captured your QR code in a nanosecond, and took me right to your website!

    I will be sure to try it again and again!

    • Pamela

      Glad to hear it worked for you first time out!

  • John Parsons

    Great post, Pam! You not only explained the concept, you practiced what you preached. Scanning your code with my iPhone took me to your mobile-optimized site, which was well-organized and pleasant to read on the small screen.

    One of the things newbies often miss is the need for a small, relatively simple code image — preferably under 33×33. Larger codes are possible (since you can cram over 4,000 characters into a single code) but most phones choke on the big ones. Check out a test I did on a recent Nordstrom QR campaign: . The secret is to keep the URL short.

    Another challenge, which you overcame, is the quality of the mobile experience. The Nordstrom code takes you to a standard, unoptimized Web page — a nightmare for the small screen. Worse still, it gave the mobile user no incentive to stay.

    A lot of companies are getting it right, however. Check out Warbasse Design’s ( cool QR Code campaigns for the Iron Man sequel, and for the HBO series Trueblood. It’s a brave new world — again.

  • Ken

    and here i am still trying to find a qr reader for my palm pre…..

    • Pamela Hazelton

      Have you tried QR deCODEr? You take a picture of the code then use the app to decipher.

      • Ken

        thanks Pam…u00a0 where canu00a0my pre find it for downloading?u00a0