What is a QR code and how does it work

Created on 2 June, 2024Frequently asked questions (FAQ) • 6 minutes read

A QR code, short for Quick Response Code, is a two-dimensional barcode that can contain information in the form of text, numbers, URLs, contact information and so on. It is a type of two-dimensional barcode originally developed in Japan in 1994 by Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota. QR codes are designed to encode and decode information quickly and easily using a QR code reader, such as a smartphone, tablet or QR code reader application.

A QR code is a pattern of black squares on a white background. Information is encoded by the position and arrangement of the black squares, which can form a more complex pattern than traditional barcodes. As a result, QR codes can hold much more information than linear barcodes and can include different types of data such as text, URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, Wi-Fi settings and more.

To use a QR code, a user can open a QR code reader application on his or her smartphone, scan the QR code with the device's camera and view the decoded information or perform actions based on the QR code's content, such as visit a website, add a contact to the address book, make a payment, and so on. QR codes are widely used in various applications such as marketing and advertising, ticketing (concert or movie), payments, authentication, logistics and more, because they are an easy and fast way to share information and enable interaction between physical objects and digital content.

The rise and fall of the QR code

The QR code has had an interesting history of rise and fall as a widely used technology for sharing information quickly and easily. Here is an overview of the key milestones:

The Rise:

  • QR codes were first developed in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, as a way to quickly encode and decode information for the automotive industry.
  • In the early 2000s, the QR code gained popularity in Japan, where it was used for industrial and consumer applications such as sharing contact information, promoting mobile websites and paying bills.
  • With the growth of smartphones and mobile technology, the QR code has been increasingly used worldwide, especially in marketing and advertising campaigns, as it provides quick and easy access to online information.

Fall of the QR code:

  • Over time, however, the popularity of the QR code began to decline. This was partly due to some of the challenges and limitations of QR codes, such as the fact that they were sometimes perceived as inconvenient to scan and were often associated with spam or malicious content.
  • In addition, alternatives to QR codes have emerged, such as barcodes, near field communication (NFC) and more advanced technologies such as augmented reality and beacons, which offer new ways to share information and create interactive experiences.
  • This has led to a decline in the use of QR codes in some regions and applications, leading to speculation about the 'demise' of the QR code as a popular technology.

Current Status:

  • Despite the challenges and alternatives, QR codes remain popular in certain applications and industries around the world. They continue to be used for marketing and advertising, sharing contact information, linking to websites and social media, making payments and more.
  • There have also been some improvements and developments in QR code technology, such as the advent of dynamic QR codes, which offer greater flexibility and tracking capabilities, and QR code scanners built into many smartphones, making QR code scanning easier and more accessible.
  • In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to a renewed interest in QR codes for use in contactless payments, contact tracking for contact verification and other security measures.

In short, although the popularity of QR codes has fluctuated over the years, they have recently seen a resurgence due to the need for contactless interaction and improved user experience on smartphones. QR codes remain a convenient and versatile way to share information and interact with digital content.

Why is the QR code back in the spotlight?

The QR code is back in the spotlight for several reasons:

  • Contactless interaction: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes have gained popularity due to the need for contactless interaction. QR codes are used for contactless payments, restaurant menus, online event registration, health certificates and other applications where physical contact is avoided.
  • Easy access to information: QR codes are a quick and easy way to share information and access digital content. With a QR code, users can quickly and easily scan and access information, links, videos, documents and other digital content with their smartphone.
  • Easy access to information: QR codes provide a quick and easy way to share information and access digital content. With a QR code, users can quickly and easily scan and access information, links, videos, documents and other digital content with their smartphone.
  • Built-in QR code scanners: Most smartphones today have QR code scanners built into their camera apps by default, making it even easier for users to scan QR codes without the need for a separate app. This has made QR code adoption easier and more widespread.
  • Marketing and promotions: Marketing and Promotions: Businesses and marketers are using QR codes as an effective way to conduct marketing and promotional campaigns. By placing QR codes on products, packaging, advertisements, and other materials, they can direct consumers to additional information, offers, product demonstrations, and more.
  • Technological improvements: QR codes have evolved to offer more functionality. There are dynamic QR codes that can be updated with new content without changing the physical QR code. There are also personalized QR codes with logos and branding, making them more appealing for marketing purposes.

Overall, the renewed interest in QR codes is driven by the need for contactless interaction, improved user experience, marketing opportunities and technological improvements. QR codes continue to be a convenient and versatile way to share information and interact with digital content, and are being increasingly adopted across a range of industries.

Why You Should Use QR Codes as a Business Owner or Marketer

As a business owner or marketer, there are several reasons why you should use QR codes in your marketing and communications strategy:

  • Easy access to information: QR codes provide a quick and easy way for your customers or target audience to access information, links, offers, product demonstrations and other digital content. By simply scanning a QR code, users can be directed to the information they need without having to manually type in a URL or search for information.
  • Contactless Interaction: In today's world where contactless interaction is important due to the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes provide a safe and hygienic way to share information without physical contact. This can be useful when offering digital menus in restaurants, making online payments, or registering for events.
  • Marketing Opportunities: QR codes can be used as an effective marketing tool to increase customer loyalty. By placing QR codes on products, packaging, advertisements or marketing materials, you can direct customers to additional information, promotions, surveys, reviews or social media sites. This can help increase customer loyalty and brand awareness.
  • Trackability and measurability: With dynamic QR codes, you can measure and analyze the performance of your marketing campaigns. You can track how often your QR codes are scanned, what content is being viewed, and how long users stay engaged with the content being shared. This can provide valuable insights to optimize and improve your marketing strategies.
  • Flexibility and personalization: QR codes can be customized to reflect your brand identity by adding your logo, colors and branding elements. This can help maintain brand consistency and create a professional image. In addition, dynamic QR codes can be updated with new content, giving you the flexibility to customize your marketing messages without having to change the physical QR codes.

In short, QR codes are a convenient and versatile marketing tool that provide easy access to information, contactless interaction, marketing opportunities, tracking and personalization. By incorporating QR codes into your marketing and communications strategy, you can better engage customers, increase brand awareness and gain valuable insights to optimize your marketing efforts.