As the COVID-19 pandemic forces businesses to find new and safer ways to interact with customers, QR codes are making a comeback. Small businesses are using these codes to reduce physical contact with customers or to make their business completely contactless. Here’s everything you need to know to start using QR codes at your business.
QR, or “Quick Response,” codes read like bar codes but have a distinctive square shape that is filled with dots and smaller squares. When your smartphone scans a QR code, it translates the information to a link. The link then leads to a website, a PDF of a restaurant menu, a Facebook page, the phone’s app store, and more.
How Small Businesses Can Use QR Codes
QR codes are a free and simple way to reduce physical contact and thus reduce the spread of COVID-19. They can even be used to create a contactless payment process. For example, if you own a restaurant, QR codes on the tables can direct customers to your menu, to place their orders, and even to pay their bills. Scanning a code minimizes contact with reusable menus and can reduce interactions with servers. If your small business sells physical products, strategically placed QR codes can direct potential customers to an online shop, order form, or app, where they can make purchases on their mobile device. If your small business offers services, you can use QR codes that link to informational videos explaining what you do and the fees you charge.
How to Create QR Codes
- Select a QR code generator. There are dozens of QR code generators to choose from on the internet, and most of them are free. Look for a generator that gives you several options for using the QR code and is compatible with most QR code readers.
- Decide what kind of data you’ll share with your QR code. Do you want to give customers access to a PDF menu? Do you want to send them to your shop’s web URL or YouTube channel? Do you want to direct them to your customer service email? The answers to these questions will help you decide on the kind of data your QR code will contain.
- Determine whether you need a static or dynamic code. Static QR codes contain data that can’t be edited once the code is generated and downloaded. Dynamic QR codes, on the other hand, give you the ability to edit the data, while still using the same QR code. If you choose a dynamic QR code, you’ll likely need to create an account on the generator website.
- Enter your data in the form and generate your QR code. QR code generators generally ask you for the type of data you’ll be sharing, and then direct you to a form where you can enter the corresponding data. Remember that most people will be accessing QR code data on their mobile device, so you’ll want to optimize your content to be seen in that format.
- Consider customizing your QR code. Some QR code generators allow you to customize the appearance of the QR code itself so it matches your brand colors or your logo. Keep in mind that not all generators offer this feature, and highly customized QR codes can sometimes become difficult to read for certain devices. Still, if you are all about aesthetics, you may want to consider this option.
- Download the QR code and test it out. Once your data format is chosen and entered along with your customization preferences, you can download your QR code. Different generators offer different download options, with JPG files being the most popular choice amongst consumers. After downloading the code, test it out to make sure the data you entered displays correctly.
- Share your code. Now you can display your code on your dining tables, storefront windows, business cards and more. Make sure the code is located in places where it is convenient for people to scan. It’s also wise to include a call to action along with the code, such as “Scan this code for a 20% off coupon.” This way, people will be inclined to use it, even if they aren’t very familiar with QR codes.
Protect Your Business when Creating QR Codes
When using online QR code generators, as with any online service, there are a few things you should keep in mind to protect any sensitive information.
- Only use a reputable QR generator. Look at online reviews before you choose a QR generator. Only use secure websites for this purpose; secure websites begin with https and display a small padlock symbol in the browser bar.
- Be careful with your personal information. If you need a dynamic QR code and decide to sign up with a QR code generator website, be cautious with your personal information. QR code generator websites may ask you for an email address, but they shouldn’t ask for more sensitive information, such as your home address, bank account information, or social security number.
- Read the fine print. Before you sign up for a service, read the fine print. Find out if the company charges for services and how they use your email address or other personal or business information. Keep in mind that you should never have to pay for “free” services.
For more information, see the BBB Small Business Resources webpage for helpful tips for small businesses navigating the coronavirus pandemic.