The What, Where, and Why of QR Codes

A quick-response, or QR, code is a mystery to many. But “the little box with the squiggly lines,” as user Courtenay Madsen describes it, is how jewelers on the cutting edge are connecting with customers. “Most people just know  that they can scan it,” says Matthew Perosi, CEO of the Jeweler Website Advisory Group in Totowa, N.J. But its potential, he says, is so much greater.

What are they, anyway?
QR codes were developed by Japanese automakers as an alternative to ordinary bar codes. They were used in manufacturing before ­attracting the attention of the advertising industry, which realized that the large amount of information QR codes could hold had significant potential in the growing field of mobile marketing.

To get them to work, you download a QR reader app onto your smartphone, then snap a picture of the code with the phone’s camera. The directions embedded in those squiggles send the phone’s Web browser to a specific website.

Where can you incorporate them?
“We’ve used them in printed collateral, direct mail, and in-store signage as well as various flyers,” says Kirsten Darrow, vice president of marketing and e-commerce at ­Portland, Ore.–based Fred Meyer Jewelers. Darrow has incorporated QR codes into more than 20 campaigns.

Where should they take viewers?
The biggest mistake jewelers make: having a QR code go to just the desktop version of their website, says Mitch Joel, president and partner at Canadian marketing firm Twist Image.

“When the person takes the picture, they’re expecting an experience they’re not getting somewhere else,” he says. Dumping them on a home page—­especially if it’s not optimized for mobile devices—frustrates consumers.

Madsen, owner of Courtenay J Designs in Melbourne, Fla., first used QR codes in September 2011 for an online contest entry form. Recently, she put a QR code on business cards that went into celebrity goodie bags at the Golden Globe Awards; it takes viewers to the mobile version of her Etsy shop.

Where shouldn’t you put them?
“Some stores put them too high in their window. QR codes don’t scan at an angle,” says Perosi. “Other people put small QR codes at the bottom of their windows. That requires somebody to squat down to take the photo, and they’re not going to do that. They have to be at shoulder height or hand height.”

Another mistake: making them too small. “At three to five feet away it needs to be about two feet square. If you’re nine feet away, it needs to be three feet to successfully scan,” he says. Note: Most QR codes on billboards or banners are too small to be effective.

What information can they give?
QR codes can offer discounts, access to a bigger selection of merchandise, details about a designer or gemstone, or more. The landing page for his store’s diamond importing site, says Gary Sanchez, owner of Diamonds Direct Fine Jewelers in St. Petersburg, Fla., goes to “a video on how we buy our diamonds.”

And it’s not only customers who find them helpful. “We just launched tablets in our stores,” says Darrow, “so sales associates can scan the QR codes for more information about a product or collection.”

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