Is there a role for QR codes in my email marketing campaigns?

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Originally the brainchild of Toyota back in the mid 1990s, quick response (QR) codes were first developed to track vehicle parts in manufacturing. They work in the same way as regular barcodes, except that they're two-dimensional, allowing users to decode content at high speed. Although they've been in service for years in Japan, the technology was simply not available elsewhere. The worldwide explosion of the smartphone has changed that; however, and over the past year QR codes have become a hot trend. Today we can find them in magazine advertising and editorials, on name tags, for-sale signs, coupons, billboards, business cards and invoices, making them hugely versatile. Basically, if you can find a way to incorporate them into your overall marketing strategy, you'll be engaging with your customers on an entirely new level and you'll be staying ahead of the latest marketing trend. But would they be as effective when used together with email marketing? In an email message, they'd be used in the same place as an ordinary link; but where a QR code would still require scanning, a link can simply be clicked on immediately. This makes it tricky and less effective if your subscribers are already viewing the email on their mobile device. They would first need to be able to save the image on their phone to scan later, or they would have to have a second mobile device handy (unlikely) in order to scan the code. Either way, it takes away the “immediacy” that a QR code brings with it. If, however, you are integrating email marketing with traditional marketing solutions such as direct mail, then unique QR codes on advertising could instantly take readers to:
  • The home page of your website;
  • The sign-up page for your email newsletter;
  • A landing page for special offers;
  • A “contact us for more information” page.
QR codes on advertising could also:
  • Automatically register a user for a competition or freebie;
  • Send a text on your behalf;
  • Display text, contact or additional product information;
  • Provide directions to your stores (via Google Maps);
  • Connect to a wireless network;
  • Display your social network profiles.
If you're ready to take the next step, there are a number of free or inexpensive online QR code generators such as Kaywa, ZXing Project and QR Stuff. Georgia Christian is the editor of Mail Blaze (, a provider of email marketing solutions.
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