Menu Close
, ,

QR codes – linking physical and digital worlds

QR codes – linking physical and digital worlds
Summary: The recent growth in QR code usage has been huge - find out why and how to create them for your business.

What is a QR code?

QR codes are those little squares you see on almost everything these days. QR stands for ‘Quick Response’, and they are a type of barcode that can be read quickly by a mobile phone. Originally, they were used in the automotive industry in Japan, but they’ve since become popular worldwide due to their fast readability and large storage capacity.

WSI Digital Advisors QR code

Each QR code is unique and can hold a lot of different kinds of information. It could take you to a website, reveal a special discount, download an app, or even play a video. All you need is a smartphone with a camera to scan the code and voila, the information is revealed.

The best part is that they’re super easy to use. You just open up your phone’s camera, point it at the QR code, and your phone does the rest. No need to take a picture or anything. It’s a quick, convenient, and touch-free way to access information.


What’s the difference between a QR code and a Bar code?

A barcode, which you’ve likely seen on almost every product in a store, is a one-dimensional code consisting of lines and spaces of various widths. When scanned, it reveals information about the product, like its price or manufacturer. Barcodes are primarily used for inventory tracking. They’re simple, effective, and can be read pretty quickly by a scanner.

Example of a bar code

On the other hand, a QR code is a two-dimensional code that can hold a lot more information than a barcode. It looks like a square filled with tiny, random-looking black and white pixels. You can scan a QR code with your smartphone camera to quickly access websites, download apps, view videos, and so much more. They’re often used in marketing and advertising because they can literally link the physical world with the digital one.


How do QR codes work?

Instead of just storing information horizontally like barcodes, QR codes can do it both horizontally and vertically. This allows them to hold a lot more information. They can contain a web link, a text, a contact card, or other types of data.

Now here’s the magic part. When you scan a QR code with your smartphone, the QR code reader app instantly translates the geometric patterns of the QR code. It’s remarkably quick. Within seconds, it decodes the information and presents it to you in a readable format on your phone. This way you can easily access websites, download your new favourite song, or even get a discount voucher for that pizza place you love. So, next time you see a QR code, go ahead and give it a scan. Who knows what surprises you might find!


Why are QR codes important for your business?

 QR codes really gained traction during the pandemic, and use of them continues to grow rapidly. Bitly are reporting a 41% year on year growth in usage over the 1st 6 months of 2023 alone.

YoY growth in use of QR codes
Source : Bitly

If you think your industry isn’t affected – think again!

QR code usage by Industry
Source : Bitly

How often are you now seeing a QR code to scan for a menu? Businesses find them handy because they reduce physical contact and keep costs down. Plus, it can be easier for us too! No more handling grubby menus, or even sometimes waiting for someone to come and take our order.

Companies are using QR codes to engage with their customers in a fun, interactive way. By scanning the code, we can easily access their websites, special offers, further information, or even exclusive content. It’s a win-win situation, really. We get the info we need with just a simple scan, and companies get to track our interaction and gather useful data.


Uses for QR codes

Direct Marketing: Attach QR codes to print advertisements, brochures, flyers, or posters. When scanned, it can lead potential customers to a landing page, promotional offer, or a product page.

Business Cards: Add a QR code to business cards. When scanned, it can lead to a digital vCard, LinkedIn profile, or company website.

Product Packaging: Incorporate QR codes onto product packaging to provide customers with additional information, instructional videos, or supplementary content.

Events & Trade Shows: Use QR codes on event badges or materials to link to digital resources, event schedules, or exhibitor websites.

Retail & Point of Sale: Embed QR codes near the checkout counter to offer digital receipts or link to loyalty program sign-ups.
Use them on price tags or shelves to provide additional product details or reviews.

Restaurants & Menu: Use QR codes on tables or walls to allow patrons to view a digital menu, place orders, or make a reservation.

Interactive Displays: Museums, galleries, or exhibitions can use QR codes next to displays to provide more detailed information or multimedia content.

Real Estate: Place QR codes on “For Sale” signs. When potential buyers scan it, they can view detailed property listings, virtual tours, or contact the agent.

Ticketing & Boarding Passes: Use QR codes on tickets or boarding passes for quick scanning and validation.

Feedback & Reviews: Incorporate QR codes on receipts or product packages that lead to feedback forms or review sites.

Loyalty Programs & Coupons: Share QR codes via email or social media to give exclusive discounts or points for loyalty program members.

Augmented Reality Experiences: Embed QR codes that, when scanned, initiate AR experiences on users’ smartphones, enhancing the user’s interaction with the brand or product.

Training & Tutorials: Print QR codes in manuals or training materials. When scanned, it can link to how-to videos or detailed instructions.

Wi-Fi Access: Use QR codes in establishments like cafes, allowing guests to scan and connect to the Wi-Fi network without needing to enter a password.

Digital Downloads: Place QR codes on physical products that provide access to digital content like e-books, music, or software.

Location-based Services: Integrate QR codes in physical locations to lead users to map directions, nearby services, or area promotions.

You can also tailor QR code applications specific to the local market, upcoming events, or localized campaigns. With the increase in mobile device usage, QR codes have become an easy and efficient way to bridge the gap between offline and online mediums.


When not to use QR codes

Imagine you’re designing a billboard or a poster to be viewed from a distance. It might seem like a good idea to include a QR code for people to scan and learn more, maybe? Well, not exactly. People often view these types of advertisements while driving or walking by, making it nearly impossible to scan the QR code. Also, the size of the QR code in relation to the distance from which it’s being viewed can cause scanning issues. So, in this case, a good old-fashioned website link might serve you better.

Likewise, if your target audience is not tech-savvy or doesn’t use a smartphone when researching products like yours, using QR codes may not be the best choice. Not everyone is familiar with how to scan a QR code, and for those who don’t own a smartphone, it’s impossible. It’s always important to consider the needs and abilities of your audience when deciding to use technology like QR codes.


How to create a QR code

To get started, simply choose an online QR code generator. There are plenty of free options available, so feel free to explore and pick the one that suits you best. Here are a few to get you going :

QR Code Monkey

Adobe QR Code Generator

Canva QR Code Generator

Me [QR]

Once you’ve chosen your QR code generator, you will typically see options to input the data you want to share. This could be a website URL, text, contact information, WiFi password, or anything else you’d like. Just type or paste your information into the provided field, and you have a QR code.

Now, most QR code generators will give you options to customize your QR code. This is the fun part! You can change the colours, add a logo or image, adjust the size, and more. Once you’re happy with how your QR code looks, simply click on ‘create’ or ‘generate’. Your custom QR code will be ready in no time. Just download it and start sharing. Congratulations, you’ve just created your own QR code!



 It’s great to see this simple, helpful technology helping the Digital and Physical worlds to work together. Embrace Digital, Stay Human!

The Best Digital Marketing Insight and Advice

The WSI Digital Marketing Blog is your go-to-place to get tips, tricks and best practices on all things digital marketing related. Check out our latest posts.

    Don't stop the learning now!

    Here are some other blog posts you may be interested in.

    Unlock the Secrets to High Converting Google Ads
    Paid Search

    Unlock the Secrets to High Converting Google Ads


    5 questions to answer when you are creating Google Ads for your business

    Read Article
    The Future of Keywords: How AI is Changing the Game
    Artificial Intelligence

    The Future of Keywords: How AI is Changing the Game


    How is AI affecting your business visibility online, and what can you do about it?

    Read Article
    Why Voice Search is an essential part of your Digital Strategy for 2024
    Future of Marketing

    Why Voice Search is an essential part of your Digital Strategy for 2024


    The rapid evolution of voice technology is driving a boom in voice search. Find out what you need to know and 4 actions you can take to optimise your site for voice search.

    Read Article