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QR Codes: What Are They and Why Use Them?


Gregory Clarke on January 16, 2013 in Advice for Business Owners

You may have noticed a strange square symbol on ads, business cards, product packaging or signs and wondered “what is that?” Well, you’re not entirely alone. This symbol, as shown below, is actually a type of two dimensional barcode called a QR Code:

We are all accustomed to the traditional barcode system that we see on a daily basis in grocery or retail stores to scan the price of an item. QR codes are just a different version of those codes. Originally, QR codes were developed for the automobile manufacturing industry for tracking purposes. Recently, this technology has become more popular in mainstream usage due to their greater storage capacity and broader application abilities. Not only can a QR code communicate information such as a name, it can do a variety of functions such as:

  • transmit data regarding a product;
  • transmit contact information from a business card to update your contact files;
  • transmit web URLs to open your browser to a specific webpage; or
  • commercial tracking of products.

These are just a few of the applications for QR codes.

In order to read a QR code, you will need a QR code reader. The reader can be downloaded as an app to your smartphone. I have an iPhone so I use an app called Quick Scan. Once installed, you can use the app to scan the QR code and read it. To try it, just install a reader using the appropriate app source for your smartphone (eg. Apple App Store, Blackberry World, etc) and scan the QR code above to be redirected to the SB Partners homepage. If you want to make your own QR code, there are many free QR code Generator sites on the web that allow you to easily program the QR code and then download it for use. Here’s a link to the generator that I used to create the QR code above: http://www.qrstuff.com.

Of course, the potential for this technology is massive, especially for marketing. The ease of using the QR code technology increases the likelihood that a consumer will scan the QR code due to its ease of use versus having to remember a website for future reference. Since there are 10.5 million smartphone users in Canada with that number expected to grow to 16 million by 2016, there is a large population that can instantly access the functionality of the QR code system. Also, the ability to transfer contact information from a business card to a smartphone contact database will make life easier for people to network and connect. In fact, I was recently in a Tim Horton’s restaurant and noticed that they were using QR code technology to promote people to apply for employment positions by simply scanning the QR code which opened a job application website portal.

Give this technology a try for yourself and see if it has any application in your business. You may be surprised at what you can do with it.