Blog Post

How to Tap the Power of 2D Barcodes

Mobile 2D barcodes have a checkered past, but they are finally starting to catch on. Scanbuy, a longtime player in the space, recently said that mobile barcode scanning through its service increased seven-fold from January to September of this year. Meanwhile, business segments from real estate agents to traditional print media outlets are embracing 2D codes as a way to reach consumers on their phones.

The codes essentially serve as a conduit between mobile users and businesses, giving the two sides a chance to interact with each other with just a few clicks (as opposed to entering a lengthy URL on a handset or sending an SMS). They can power a wide variety of marketing and promotional initiatives, from distributing images and video from Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to providing tasting notes for bottles of wine on store shelves. Film studios can distribute movie trailers through 2D campaigns, and performing artists can distribute music clips to promote an upcoming tour.

But as I write in my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, the potential of 2D-based marketing is often lost because campaigns go unnoticed, they’re confusing or they simply don’t work. So as the space begins to heat up — finally — I offer a few tips to a wide variety of businesses looking to harness the power of 2D barcodes.

  • Educate consumers. While the recent uptake of 2D codes is impressive, the vast majority of mobile users still have no idea what they’re supposed to do with the little Rorschach-looking cubes. Businesses should tell them very clearly which platforms and apps support which campaigns, and give them step-by-step instructions on how to use the barcodes.
  • Make it obvious – and easy. Make sure customers see your barcode, and make sure they can be easily and accurately scanned (especially important in brick-and-mortar deployments like Google’s Favorite Places). Keep them at a size that can easily be captured with a phone’s camera, and make sure they’re surrounded with plenty of white space. Finally, test them regularly to make sure they work on all supporting handsets.
  • Integrate your campaigns. Make your barcodes visible everywhere it makes sense. Present them in your print ads, online and in emails to customers. Brick-and-mortar retailers should consider sticking them on the front door and at the sales counter; restaurants could put them on menus and give users a way to access the menu and even place orders on the go.

Read more tips, along with the full post, here.

Image courtesy Flickr user Projeto Sticker Map.

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6 Responses to “How to Tap the Power of 2D Barcodes”

  1. I do think there needs to be more education about 2D codes (QR Codes)and your blog is doing just that. I think that within 5 years or sooner everyone will know how to deploy and use 2D codes. All it will really take is for some famous actor to scan a 2D code in one of their movies and the 2d technology will be off to the races. In the meantime there are plenty of tech-savvy people who will use the technology, so a business should develop a marketing effort now to stay ahead of the pack. Thanks for the article. Would like to hear from others on how they are deploying 2D codes in their marketing fforts.

  2. @Collin. Why link to a whitepaper? I went to on my iphone, and the video explains QR Codes very well. I like @QR Tag’s idea with a link beneath the QR code. I’ll probably start using this. Great resource!

  3. I expect android phones to receive push ads simply by walking within proximity… any time now

    “oh my a scatter dot”

    I must scan it with my phone: not

    thanks for the less intrusive ads.. I like not-seeing them. hope you get enough sheeple

  4. I agree 100%. QR codes will lead to confusion unless the printed codes also educate people what to do with them. I recommend adding this text as a footer:

    Tag this QR code.
    Free mobile app:

    This short-and-easy-to-type mobile website has information on what QR codes are and links to free mobile barcode scanners.

    Here’s an example of what it looks like:

    Here’s the footer in Hi-Res for anyone to use with their QR codes: