Quick response (QR) codes are the next generation of barcode—with usefulness that goes well beyond the grocery store checkout. Understanding It Because QR codes store information in a two-dimensional matrix (both vertically and horizontally), these square “checkerboard” codes can hold exponentially more information than a standard rectangular UPC. But this increase in storage is only half the reason QR codes are becoming so popular. The other phenomenon responsible for popularizing QR codes is the growing accessibility of high-tech decoding devices—they’re called “smartphones.” Just five years ago, these handheld code-deciphering gadgets didn’t exist. Today, 35% of adult Americans own one (according to a 2011 study). For those who belong to the 35%, a QR code reader is never more than a few taps or clicks away. If you don’t see an app for it on your smartphone already, just download a free one like you would any other app. There are plenty to choose from. Using It You may have noticed an increasing number of QR codes in advertising, marketing, and customer involvement materials. Major brands like Sony, McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Best Buy, Pepsi, and Audi have all found a way to use these easily identifiable codes to inform and engage their customers. The purpose of a QR code, in broad terms, is to direct the user’s smartphone to open a mobile-friendly website, image, app, video, or other alternate form of Internet-hosted information. Knowing that, there are dozens of ways a company could use QR codes to improve their customer experience. An effective use of QR codes for a Mindshare client could be as simple as creating a code that takes customers to a mobile-optimized survey. Companies could post this QR code on store signage, at a restaurant table, or even on a receipt, along with text that says something like this: “Scan here to tell us how we served you today.” Creating a QR code isn’t difficult, either, and it’s free. One of many available options, the goo.gl application will convert any web address into a QR code, and you can even track it in Google Analytics to see how well it’s working. Now that you’re aware and prepared, it’s time to consider putting the amazing QR code to work for your company. More About It • See some of the more innovative ways companies have used QR codes here. • Learn even more about the amazing QR code here.