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How to Use QR Codes

The rise and evolution of cell phones have affected nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives. We now use cell phones not only to make phone calls, but to take pictures, send quick messages to friends, access the internet, and follow the lives of our friends and even complete strangers from nearly anywhere in the world.

Cell phones are everywhere. As a business owner, your marketing strategy has to adjust to accommodate the use of phones. Let's face it...if someone is seeing your content online, it's probably on their cell phone. Because cell phones are such a common and critical part of our lives, sometimes the world has to change to make cell phone usage easier. The QR code is a perfect example.

Even if you’ve never used a QR code, you’ve probably seen one. They’re small squares with a pattern of blocks and lines. You hold your phone’s camera up to the square and you’re led to a specific page on the internet. They're commonly used on flyers, signs, brochures, coupons, social posts, emails, and more. Simply put, QR codes are everywhere these days. The QR code has become widely used over the past few years, especially through the COVID pandemic when people actively avoided physical contact with printed materials like menus.

QR codes aren’t just convenient. They’re also incredibly powerful marketing tools that can be used in flyers, emails, social posts, and much more to generate traffic and convert visitors into buyers. Below is a comprehensive guide to QR codes where we explain how you can make them part of your marketing strategy.

What is a QR code?

A QR code is an array of black and white boxes and squares that contain codes of data. The QR stands for “quick read.”

While QR codes have become common over the past several years, they were actually invented all the way back in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota called Denso Wave. Denso Wave needed an efficient way to track car parts, so they invented the QR code along with scanners designed to read the codes. They placed stickers with codes on each part. With a quick scan, they were able to check a part into inventory and track it through the supply chain.

After Denso's creation of QR codes, they became commonly-used in the manufacturing and supply chain industries. However, it would take some time before they were adapted by the general public.

In the early 2000s, Denso made QR code technology publicly available for anyone to use without any infringement on their patent. Around that time, QR scan technology became available on some cell phones in Japan. However, it would be nearly 20 years before the technology became widespread.

The real estate industry was an early adopter of QR codes. Agents would put QR codes on "For Sale" signs and flyers. Potential buyers could scan QR code and could see the specs, images, and floorplans of a property.

It would take a worldwide event to make the codes more valuable and useful than ever. The COVID pandemic limited the effectiveness and safety of physical materials. Businesses like restaurants, hotels, and more needed a way to communicate information without providing printed materials. QR codes were the solution.

In just a few short years, QR codes have become a common part of daily life. In fact, in 2021 alone, 76 million Americans used their phone to scan a QR code at some point.

In 2021, nearly 76 millions Americans scanned a QR code using their mobile device.

How do QR codes work?

A QR code works similarly to a simple barcode, but the QR code is able to hold much more data. In a barcode, a scanner reads the combination of lines from top to bottom to interpret data like price or inventory levels.

A QR code works in much the same way. However, a QR code can be read in two directions: from top to bottom and from left to right. This allows the code to hold significantly more information than a simple barcode.

QR codes have become a popular way to share things like a web page or a menu or registration forms in marketing campaigns. They’re also used by manufacturers to track inventory and parts. There are nearly unlimited combinations of QR codes available because of the unique patterns of blocks in each one. No two QR codes are the same, which means they are a highly effective way to convey information.

QR code uses and applications

How can your business use QR codes in your marketing campaigns? There is a wide range of potential uses, but below are some of the most popular:

List of uses for QR codes
  • Menus. You’ve likely been to a restaurant that uses a QR code instead of a physical menu. You simply scan the code and the menu pops up on your phone. It saves the restaurant money by eliminating the need to print menus every time something is changed.
  • Business cards. How often has someone given you a business card and it’s ended up lost or in the trash? Very few people carry or keep business cards these days. A QR code is an effective way for you to send your contact information so the recipient can save it directly in their phone.
  • Print advertisements. Are you running ads in magazines or newspapers? Want the ads to lead the person to your website? Add a QR code in the ad. They can scan the code and instantly pull up the website on their phone.
  • App downloads. Does your business have an app? Use a QR code to lead customers to the app in their app store. It saves them steps and allows them to download your app in seconds.
  • Luggage tags. It’s so easy for handwritten physical tags to get lost in transport. Instead, use QR code stickers that have your name and contact information. If your luggage gets lost, someone can simply scan the code and contact you immediately.
  • Digital payments. Do you want to take payments electronically? Use a QR code at your point of sale. The customer can scan the code and quickly make payment with the methods saved in your phone. It eliminates the need for cash transactions and even card readers.
  • Coupons. Want to offer your customers a coupon for the next time they visit? Send it quickly with a QR code. They can present the code in your business and when it’s scanned, the discount is applied to their purchase.
  • Picture sharing. Need to show a gallery of images for an event, business, property, or product? Use a QR code as a link to the images for quick browsing.

This is just a sampling of some of the more common uses for QR codes. There are many more uses. Any instance where you need to communicate a link to a company website or data quickly has potential for QR code uses.

QR codes in business marketing

How do you integrate QR codes into your marketing efforts and communicate them to your audience? It’s easy. Anytime you digitally send information to customers, you have the opportunity to include a QR code.

For example, let’s say you have a signup form to reserve spaces for a class or other service you offer. You can share signup forms with QR codes via social media, email, or even text. Your clients scan the code and go to the signup form to reserve their spot.

The same is true with a digital coupon. You communicate it digitally the same way you would any other message. You could even include the code on printed materials like flyers, posters, or signs in your business. Anyone who scans the code has access to the coupon.

There are few limits on how to use QR codes in your marketing. Be creative and think of a wide range of methods for communicating the code to your potential customers and your market.

How to scan a QR code

The best part of QR codes is how easy they are to use. They may seem complicated at first, but once you get the hang of them, they are incredibly simple. Here are some tips on how to use your phone as a QR code scanner:

How to scan a QR code on Android

It is very easy to scan QR codes on an Android device. First, you open your camera app and point it at the code. The code will need to be in focus so you may need to zoom in or out to get a good angle. Most Android phone cameras will recognize that you are trying to scan a code and will provide text instructions on how to adjust the zoom.

Once the code is in focus, the camera will read the code. This is nearly instant. It shouldn’t take more than a second for the camera to scan the QR code. Once that is complete, a small banner will pop up with a link.

Tap the banner and you will exit the camera app and automatically go to the link that was embedded in the code. That’s it! You’ve successfully scanned your first QR code with an Android device.

How to scan a QR code on iPhone

The process for scanning a QR code on an iPhone is very similar to that with an Android. You start by opening the camera app. You’ll want to use the rear-facing camera. Again, the QR code needs to be focused by the camera. If you’re out of focus, the camera will give you instructions on how to get it into focus.

Again, it should be instant for the camera to read the code. Once it does, a link will pop up. Tap the link and you will be directed to the associated page where you can fill out a form, download a coupon, or take whatever next step was intended.

It’s very simple to scan a QR code on both iPhone and Android. No customers will be left out if you decide to use QR codes in your business.

How to create QR codes: 3 methods

QR codes aren’t just easy to scan. They’re also easy to create. The codes themselves may look intricate and detailed, and they are. But don’t worry, you won’t be creating the code designs yourself.

There are a few different ways to quickly create QR codes that you can use in your marketing. Below are three of the most common methods:

Graphic: 3 ways to create a QR code.


Mailchimp offers a simple and easy tool to help you share signup forms with QR codes. After you create your signup form on the Mailchimp website or the Mailchimp mobile app, you will be asked by which method you want to share your form. The options include a link, Facebook, Twitter, and QR code.

Choose the QR code option and Mailchimp will generate a code for you. You then select what size you want the code to be: small, medium, or large. After that step, your QR code is ready for you to download. You can then use the code in emails, social posts, flyers, brochures, or just about anything else that will reach your customers.

Google Chrome

Did you know Google Chrome has a built-in QR code generator? That’s just one of the many little-known free features of the Chrome browser.

To use the Chrome QR code tool, go to the web page you want to share. It could be a landing page, business webpage, or form. You should go to the client-facing version of the page, not the internal one you would see on the admin side of your website.

In the menu bar, there should be a “Share” icon to the far right, just before the star icon. Click on that button and a menu will appear with various ways to share the link, including email, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

One of the options will read, “Create QR Code.” Click on that option and a QR code will appear. Hit the “Download” button on that box and the code will download to your images. The code is now ready for use on social posts, flyers, and more. It will always be linked to that specific page, so there is no need to create multiple codes. You can use it however you think is most effective.

QR code generators

The third possible way to create QR codes is to use a third-party website. Simply search “QR code generators” in your browser of choice and you will find thousands of options.

Most of these websites offer a very simple, free service. You paste in the link to your desired destination and the generator creates a unique QR code that you can use in your marketing efforts. You download the code and it’s yours to use.

Some also offer premium versions for a small fee. In these options, you pay once or on a monthly basis. Just like with the free version, you paste in the link to your destination and the generator creates a unique code.

The difference with the premium versions is on the backend. Most offer to report on how many people clicked your link and which channels delivered the most visitors. This kind of reporting could be beneficial if you plan to use a high volume of QR codes and want to use the reporting to influence your marketing strategy.

Share content with QR codes

QR codes are a simple and effective way to drive traffic to your landing pages and website. The biggest benefit of QR codes is their simplicity. Your customers don’t have to type a domain or lengthy website address into a browser. Nor do they have to wait until they get home to access your site via a computer.

Rather, they simply scan the code right there in the moment while your business is top of mind. Within seconds, they’re on your page and able to take action by registering for a service, filling out a form, downloading a coupon, and much more.

QR codes are easy to generate and track. A good rule of thumb is to include a QR code in anything that has a link so your customers can easily reach your site.

You can use backend tracking to see which QR codes generate the most traffic, and then use that data to influence your marketing decisions. You may find that some methods deliver more traffic than others.

Mailchimp can help you generate QR codes and deliver them to thousands of potential customers with just a few clicks. Get started today with Mailchimp’s QR generation code inside of our easy-to-use form builder.

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