Quick response (QR) codes are tiny but mighty in marketing. They’re an easy way to direct audiences to a specific destination in one scan, such as a promo page on your website or a digital brochure. They’re also low-cost, easy to set up, and effective. And, they’re very versatile, fitting seamlessly into various marketing objectives—from growing your brand awareness to boosting sales. Keep reading to discover eight of the best QR code marketing ideas to grow your small business.
Overview (What Is QR Code Marketing?)
QR code marketing (synonymous with QR code advertising) uses QR codes to market your business by leading audiences to a specific destination, like a landing page or sign-up form, or to prompt actions like phone calls or text messages. Because of their versatility, QR codes are effective for nearly any type of marketing campaign, from building brand awareness to producing sales.
Some examples of QR codes in marketing are brochures with QR codes that lead to your website for more information, or business cards with QR codes that instantly prompt phone calls. QR codes’ key benefit is their immediacy: they cut down customer journeys to just one step.
1. Offer QR Code Coupons
One of the most effective QR code marketing ideas is to use them to promote limited-time discount coupons. You can place a QR code at a physical location like your storefront or on a public poster that, when scanned, reveals a discount coupon to users.
While coupon marketing has been around for decades, QR codes offer a new way for customers to experience them. Screening coupons behind a QR code gives customers a greater sense of reward when they access it and boosts their motivation to use it even further.
Overall, QR code coupons are a great QR advertising idea for customer retention and encouraging repeat purchases. Learn more about how to use coupon marketing to grow your business.
2. Lead Website Visitors to Download Your App
One of the biggest QR code benefits is mobility. People use their mobile phones to scan QR codes, which makes them a perfect fit for leading users to mobile-specific destinations, like apps. If you have an app, one of the easiest QR code marketing ideas is to use QR codes to lead visitors to your website to download your app.
Create a section on your website to place your QR code (your “Home” and “About” page are good options), then upload your QR code. Having a QR code on your site creates a direct link to your app download page, minimizing the need for users to search them manually on their app markets.
3. Digitize Your Direct Mail Campaigns
Direct mail promotions are one of the oldest marketing methods. They’re also a natural fit for QR codes. One way to upgrade your direct mail campaigns is to add QR codes that can connect customers to your digital presence, like your website or social media pages.
QR codes fit in anywhere—add them to postcards, brochures, or flyers. And, they can lead anywhere: a specific landing page, a sign-up form, a free trial activation, and so on.
4. Encourage Email Sign-ups
Sign-up forms can be tedious, even if they lead to something exciting or rewarding. But in the age of everything digital, forms shouldn’t have to be inconvenient anymore—which is why one of the best applications of QR codes is in making your email sign-up forms simple and accessible.
Create a QR code with a landing page leading to your email marketing sign-up form, then place it on your physical storefront or other printed marketing materials. By cutting down the sign-up process, you’ll have a greater chance of people signing up to receive your emails.
Pro tip: For an extra incentive, offer a special discount or voucher to your email marketing subscribers. Find out more tips and ideas for digital marketing your small business.
5. Show Demo Videos on Brochures
Brochures are one of the most tried-and-true marketing materials around, but one way to upgrade them for modern audiences is with QR codes. Brochures are well-established as a source for customers to learn about your brand and product. But if you have a more complex product that can’t be explained adequately in printed words or images alone, you can do so through a demo video linked via a QR code.
It’s no secret that video marketing is at its peak—recent studies say 96% of consumers use video to learn about new products and brands. If you have print materials, QR codes are the most convenient way to expand them to include video.
6. Upgrade Product Labels to Educate Customers
One of the most creative ways to use QR codes for marketing is by incorporating them in smart product labels that tell customers more about your product. For instance, if you want your customers to know your product’s ingredients or your brand’s sustainability efforts, adding QR codes that link to that information can transform your packaging into a content powerhouse in one simple scan.
There’s only so much info your packaging label can fit, but with a QR code, your content possibilities are almost limitless. Add image galleries, videos, or even interactive elements. Plus, you can track how many people visited your link to give you valuable customer data.
7. Generate Leads From Email Signatures
One of the most understated yet creative QR code ideas for businesses is to incorporate one in your email signature. Email signatures play a quietly powerful role in growing your brand awareness: a professionally designed signature instantly makes you look more credible and professional than a plain text sign-off. One way to upgrade your signature even further is to add a QR code that instantly prompts a phone call, say, to a sales representative from your team.
It’s a simple upgrade, but it can immediately generate more leads. QR codes can even prompt SMS messages or send emails—be sure to use a QR code generator that supports them, like Wix or Hovercode.
8. Collect Customer Reviews
Reviews are immensely helpful for growing your online presence. Whether you own a restaurant or a retail store, research has shown that online reviews significantly impact purchase decisions for 93% of consumers. So, it’s no question that collecting reviews should be part of your marketing strategy, and one of the most seamless ways to do so is via QR codes.
Whether you place them at your store counter, in your customers’ receipts, or in a postcard shipped alongside your products, QR codes are a quick and seamless way to get those all-important customer reviews.
Best Practices for QR Code Marketing & Advertising
You might remember sometime in the early 2010s when QR codes were first introduced to the wider public but didn’t really take off. This is partly due to ill-fitted handling and marketing and in part because tech wasn’t ready for them yet. But that isn’t the case anymore.
Since the pandemic, QR codes have grown in popularity as one of the handiest marketing tools, especially for small businesses. This is thanks to QR codes’ immediacy, versatility, and ability to fit in just about any advertising collateral.
But as with any other marketing strategy, there are certain best practices with QR code advertising to best maximize its benefits for your small business. For instance, because QR codes work principally on smartphones, you want to ensure that all your landing pages are mobile-optimized, both function and design-wise. QR codes are also very location-centric—where they are placed plays a large role in their overall effectiveness.
So, while they undeniably offer countless benefits, achieving them using QR codes takes a bit of know-how. Here are some of the biggest do’s and don’ts when using QR code marketing to promote your business.
QR Code Marketing Do’s & Don’ts
|QR Marketing Do’s||QR Marketing Don'ts|
|Brand and customize your QR codes||Don’t over-customize your code to the point that it’s no longer scannable|
|Optimize your QR code’s landing pages for mobile devices||Don’t place QR codes where they aren’t visible|
|Include a compelling call to action to motivate people to scan your code||Don’t place QR codes alongside cluttered designs—they’ll just get lost|
|Test your QR code multiple times before deploying it||Don’t place URL QR codes where there is no internet connection|
|Track QR code’s uses, scans, and other analytics||Don’t use generic calls to action like “learn more” or “click here”|
|Tailor your QR code strategy to your target audience|
Who QR Code Advertising & Marketing Works Best For
QR code versatility makes them suitable for nearly any industry, but certain businesses can benefit more than others. As mentioned, QR codes have mobility and immediacy in their DNA. This naturally makes them a perfect fit for businesses that share those characteristics—for example, businesses with apps or other digital assets that need to be easily accessible, like restaurant menus.
These are some of the businesses that would best benefit from QR code marketing and advertising:
- Businesses with apps: QR codes are the easiest way to lead customers directly to your app download page. If you have an app, place QR codes leading to it on your website, on outdoor ads, or at your physical storefront if you have one.
- Musicians and creatives: If you offer downloads of your music or podcasts, or want to drive traffic to your online portfolio or videos, QR codes make it easy. For example, you can add a QR code to your Facebook cover photo that takes visitors to your portfolio or download a landing page.
- Restaurants and cafes: In the wake of COVID, no-contact menus and payment have been on the rise, and they’re likely here to stay. QR codes have been a primary asset in making these possible. If you have a restaurant or cafe, use QR codes to lead to online or PDF menus (make sure they’re optimized for mobile) and contactless payment.
- Real estate: QR codes can also prompt users to make phone calls, which is why they’re also helpful for the real estate industry. Between potential clients manually typing in a mobile number or simply scanning a QR code to dial, it’s easy to see why QR codes are a huge boon for real estate professionals. Add them to business cards, flyers, or other real estate marketing materials.
- Retail businesses: For retail stores, QR codes can also help customers learn more about your product that otherwise wouldn’t fit on a small product tag alone. Instead of trying to squeeze in all your information, add a scannable QR code to your product label. Plus, by taking the experience digital, you can be as creative and dynamic with your content as you like.
- Small businesses with physical storefronts: Locations also play a significant role in QR code marketing—where your QR code is placed directly impacts its effectiveness. If your small business has a physical location, add a QR code in your store to market your website or social media pages.
Benefits of QR Code Promotion for Small Businesses
QR code advertising is one of the most understated, yet helpful strategies you can use to grow your small business today. Not only do they significantly streamline customer journeys and help you gain customer data, but they’re also easy to set up—and they’re effective in marketing. Check out some of the stats below that show the growing relevance and benefits of QR codes in marketing.
- Use of QR codes grew by 26% since 2020: According to Statista, around 89 million people used a QR code in 2022, a 26% increase since 2020. It comes as no surprise: The pandemic has accelerated contactless commerce, and QR codes fit that need perfectly. As businesses continue to develop in a post-pandemic world, QR codes continue to maintain their relevance.
- 47% of customers say QR codes are helpful in post-pandemic commerce: The pandemic has undoubtedly helped usher in the prevalence of QR codes today, and it’s a change many consumers have welcomed. A recent survey found that 80% of customers found QR codes helpful in making life easier in a no-contact, post-pandemic world.
- 45% of consumers have used a marketing QR code: QR codes have also been growing in marketing too—Statista research found that 45% of shoppers used a marketing-related QR code in 2021. This means if you create a QR code advertising campaign, there’s a good chance nearly half of your customers will take part in it.
- 59% of consumers say scanning QR codes is now a permanent practice: QR codes are here to stay for the majority of your customers. A recent survey found that 59% of shoppers agreed that using QR codes has now become a regular part of using their phones, and will continue to do so permanently in the future.
- 54% of marketers say QR code advertising supports sales: Finally, QR codes are also proven to impact sales. In a 2022 survey among advertising professionals, more than half said that QR codes played a role in supporting sales. This is largely due to their versatility: QR codes can be used in campaigns at every stage of the sales funnel.
Frequently Asked Questions
A good CTA for a marketing QR code shows audiences the benefit they’ll get from scanning it. An example of this is “Scan to save 20%” for a discount coupon QR code, or “Scan for exclusive updates” for a newsletter sign-up form. The key is to give your audience a reason to scan your QR code while keeping it short (ideally within five words) and compelling. Avoid generic CTAs like “Learn more” or “Get started.”
You can make a custom QR code by using a QR code generator that allows customization and branding, like Unitag. After generating your QR code, choose your code’s colors, pattern, and size, and you can even upload your business logo to sit at the center of your code. After designing your custom QR code, it’s ready to download and use.
Yes—many QR code generators allow you to generate custom QR codes for free, like Canva, Hovercode, and Unitag. These platforms let you generate unique QR codes and then customize their color, size, and pattern. Hovercode and Unitag also have the option to upload your brand logo to your QR code, all completely free of charge.
Yes. In fact, in the wake of the pandemic, QR codes are more relevant than ever, as more people have accepted them as part of their day-to-day lives, from contactless restaurant ordering and cashless payments to QR code transportation tickets. QR codes are also growing in marketing, specifically in coupons and customer engagement campaigns. Studies have even found that the majority of people now use QR codes all the time.
QR codes have been one of the biggest comebacks in recent years, with much of the world catching on to their convenience and versatility. Brands have been catching on to them too, leveraging QR code advertising’s effectiveness for multiple marketing strategies. They’re also beneficial for your small business, given that they’re easy to set up and often free. Get started with them today with the QR code marketing examples above.