Should You Implement a QR Code Campaign for Your Small Business?

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about the QR Code phenomenon in Japan that recently reached the shores of the U.S., I was skeptical.  First of all, who would want a barcode looking eyesore displayed throughout their business’s store or website?  Secondly, would customers really take the time to download a QR Code Reader app for their smart phone and consistently utilize it in stores for decoding displayed codes?  I later learned the answer to the first question is yes, stores don’t seem to mind having these black and white images displayed, and for good reasons which are discussed below.   The answer to question #2 has yet to be entirely seen, although we do know that consumer usage of QR Code Reading apps is on the rise.

For small business owners who are unfamiliar with QR Codes, they are basically new age barcodes that store much more data than the original.  The acronym QR stands for Quick Response, derived from their ability to quickly relay information to a mobile device.  The process of creating a code to decoding it on a cell phone is quite simple and can be completed from start to finish in a matter of minutes.

Before creating a code, a business will need to decide what it wants to convey to a customer.  The neat thing about QR Codes is that they can contain numerous types of information, such as a catchy phrase, website URL, Facebook ID, coupons, event details, product details, and so on.  The variety of information storable within a code allows a business to become very creative, which helps to differentiate them from other businesses using codes for promotion.

qr codes small businessAfter settling on what information will be stored in the QR Code, any individual can generate their code for free through a number of internet websites, such as  The next decision a business must make is deciding on which medium to print the QR Code on.  In-store flyers, websites, business cards, and even billboards are all fair game.

At this point, a business’s work is done.  If a QR Code is placed in a highly visible area, curious customers will use their smart phones to decode your message as quick as they can.  Other customers may be unaware of what a QR Code is, allowing the business an opportunity to explain and appear tech-savvy.  Customers can be directed to a number of free QR Code Reader phone apps available for download across all smart phone platforms.

There appear to be a number of advantages for businesses to use QR Codes.  This is evidenced by the fact that more and more codes are showing up around town and even on television.  When a business uses a QR Code, it conveys to consumers that it’s creative and on top of new technology.  QR Codes create excitement for a customer, as what’s stored within a code is a mystery waiting to be solved.   They are also a very effective way to quickly and accurately communicate information.  For example, it would take a customer much less time to scan a QR Code that would connect the customer directly to your business’s website than it would for that same customer to manually type in a long URL address.

At this time, the majority of consumers are not decoding QR Codes with their cell phones.  However, the percentage of the population using smart phones continues to steadily increase.  Given this trend as well as the fact that consumers seem to be quite interested in newer, technology-based marketing tactics, Catalyst feels it’s worth exploring the use of QR Codes for your business.


  1. Nice summary Ryan. I am a huge fan of QR codes. Yes, consumers are not aware of them yet, but they are on the horizon. Let me stick to an industry I am familiar with, the restaurant industry. A great way to top off an integrated marketing movement. QR code on your landing page of Facebook driving potential customers to Limited Time Offers like those special burgers you are promoting in May for National Burger Month. Same QR code on a poster in your window. Special National Burger Month insert menu with QR codes that provide your guests with information (ingredients, source of ingredients, nutritionals, etc.), maybe even a short, fun video. How about QR codes on your to go packaging that provides your customers with you take out menu or promotions. The only downside of QR codes I see in the future once they hit the mainstream is to keep the content fresh so you keep your customers engaged.

  2. Jim -

    100% AGREED! Thanks so much for providing such practical examples for our readers. I saw your article on Twitter today regarding the wine bottle containing a QR code, very cool! I agree that the challenge will become keeping them fresh once more businesses jump on the QR code bandwagon. I guess that’s the point of most marketing initiatives though, keeping customers engaged. QR codes are just one more tool in our arsenal.

    Thanks again!

    Ryan Taft

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