How to Use QR Codes in Direct Mail

Quick Response (QR) codes are becoming popular in direct marketing campaigns as a call to action, but the trick for many marketers is how to use them effectively, rather than as an afterthought.

According to a 2010 report by ScanLife, there was a 1600% increase in overall QR scanning from 2009. The company found that the top reasons to scan barcodes are: price comparisons (81%), product reviews (63%), and to receive special offers (63%). (Click here for the complete 2010 report.)

Even the USPS is getting in on the action, promising a 3% discount in postage rates for companies using standard or first-class rates, and incorporating a QR code into their mailpiece.

What is a QR code?

It’s a 2D barcode, which means that data is stored in two directions and can be scanned vertically or horizontally. (UPC codes, on the other hand, are 1D and can only be scanned in one direction.) QR codes can have any sort of information embedded, such as URLs, photos, videos or text. The codes are readable with any smartphone, but a free QR reader app is required.

How can you use QR codes?

The obvious answer is to drive more business to your website, but don’t just send your respondents to your company webpage. At the very least, set up a mobil-optimized website with analytics, which will give you the ability to track and update your campaign. Consider providing brief, easy-to-understand directions of how to use the code and a URL where users can download a QR code-reader for their phones.

Here are some more ideas you can incorporate into a direct mail/QR code campaign:
  • Add a QR code to a newsletter that will send people to an online page of testimonials.
  • Link to a free ringtone, song, movie preview, or podcast.
  • Point to (good) online reviews of your product or service.
  • Provide more information about the product or service you’re marketing. Realtors, this is a perfect place to showcase a house.
  • Direct your reader to your company’s social media sites.
  • Use QR codes linked to your organization’s donation page to give your reader another way to give.
What to watch out for:
  • Above all else, make the code content relevant to what you’re selling.
  • It’s tempting to cram a lot of information into a QR code, but remember that the more information you have, the denser the code will be, and the more difficult it will be for a mobile device to scan.  In these samples, we used our Facebook page URL as-is on the left, and a shortened URL on the right.

Post Haste Mailing Facebook
page using a shortened link

Post Haste Mailing Facebook
page URL as-is

  • Keep your code at least 1”x1” for easy reading.
  • Don’t link to the homepage of your website unless it’s optimized for a mobile device. And don’t ever link to a flash site – mobile phones don’t read flash.
  • You don't have to make your code black. Any dark color will work (you're looking for good contrast), and even many medium hues. But the key is to ...
  • Test your QR code before printing.

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