Nowadays, you can't take a stroll down the street without seeing a QR code on a billboard or storefront. From restaurant menus to business cards to employee uniforms, QR codes are becoming a common fixture in the modern consumer landscape.

Safe to say, their usage in the brick-and-mortar businesses is well established. But QR codes' potential extends far beyond physical locations – they can also prove to be a valuable tool in your eCommerce arsenal.

In this article, we'll explore how incorporating QR codes into your eCommerce strategy can benefit your eCommerce store, and offer some tips on the best practices for using them.

What is a QR code?

At first glance, QR Codes may appear to be a random collection of black and white squares. But these codes can hold a significant amount of information, from  links to landing pages with product details to payment options and promotions. All customers need is a smartphone with a QR Code scanner, and they can quickly access the information without typing lengthy URLs or handling physical materials.

For example, say you own an online clothing store and want to provide customers with additional product information, such as fabric content or care instructions. Instead of making them search for this information on your website, you can add a QR code to the physical clothing tag that, when scanned, brings them directly to the relevant page.

How do QR codes work?

A QR code uses a visual encoding system that can store thousands of alphanumeric characters. When scanned, this information is converted into readable text for the user to access. This transaction takes place in a matter of seconds, making it an incredibly efficient and convenient form of sharing information.

Due to QR codes' widespread use, most smartphone users already have a QR code scanner built into their device's camera app. But for those who don't, plenty of free QR code scanner apps are available for download.

Benefits of QR codes

Sure, QR codes may seem like a small addition to your eCommerce strategy, but they can be extremely beneficial to both you and your customers. How? Let’s look at a few ways integrating QR codes into your eCommerce strategy can benefit your business:

  • Provide instant access. As mentioned earlier, customers can use QR codes to gain instant access to product details, size charts, promotional offers, and more. This streamlines the customer's experience and eliminates any frustration they may encounter searching for this information on their own.

  • Collect data. QR codes can also serve as a tool for gathering customer data and insights. Most QR code generators offer the option to track how many times a code is scanned, where it was scanned, and even what type of device it was scanned with. This information can be valuable in determining the success of your QR code campaigns and making changes for future strategies.

  • Save marketing dollars. Two of the best things about QR codes are that they are affordable and easy to generate. Many generators offer free options, and even upgraded versions are typically much less expensive than traditional advertising methods. So not only are QR codes convenient and efficient, but they can also save your business money.

How to use QR codes in your eCommerce business

Now that the basics are covered, let's get down to the practical ways you can incorporate QR codes into your eCommerce strategy. 

To increase social media engagement

Few customers will actively seek out a business's social media pages unless they have a particularly strong affinity for the brand. A QR code offers a seamless way to direct customers to your various social media platforms and encourage them to follow and engage with your pages.

Include a QR code on product packaging, cards enclosed in online orders, or other printed materials (like invoice receipts) that leads customers to your social media pages. You can also use a unified QR code to link customers to multiple social media channels, rather than creating separate codes for each platform.

To promote product transparency

Green. Sustainable. Fair-trade. These buzzwords have become important for customers in recent years, with many seeking to support businesses that align with their values. 

However, with limited real estate on product packaging, a brand can’t possibly convey all of its affiliations and beliefs. Until now, customers may have had to visit the company's website or contact customer service for this information. 

But with a QR code, all this information can be readily available to the customer at their fingertips. Midwest Dairy, for example, uses QR codes on their milk cartons to link customers to information about their dairy farm and animal care practices. This allows customers to make informed decisions and feel confident in their purchases.

To offer discounts and coupons

Of course, we can't talk about QR codes in eCommerce without mentioning their usefulness in offering discounts and coupons. Rather than sharing a lengthy url or link, customers can easily access coupons by scanning a QR code displayed on promotional materials or product packaging.

This method of offering discounts also helps to limit usage to recent customers or target demographic, as the code can only be accessed and used by those who have made a purchase or fit the desired criteria. For example, a QR code displayed on the receipt of a recent purchase can offer customers a discount on their next purchase, only redeemable by first -time customers. 

What's more, you can also track the success of specific promotions and campaigns by simply seeing how many customers have scanned and redeemed the code. That way, you can also gather insights into what kind of offers, discounts or other incentive offers are most popular with your audience.

To provide a unique experience

The Darling in West Loop provides a leading example of how QR codes can enhance the customer experience in unique and memorable ways. The restaurant uses QR codes on their to-go menus to bring the in-restaurant experience to patrons dining at home, with live stream cabaret performances and looped footage from the bar.

Consider how you could bring a similar level of engagement to your online business. For example, a beauty company may use QR codes on product packaging to link customers to video tutorials or virtual makeup consultations. Or a furniture retailer may use QR codes to link customers to assembly demonstrations or interior design inspiration.

By providing value in the form of entertainment or education, you can create a more engaging and immersive brand experience for your customers.

To streamline inventory management

QR codes can also be applied to more logistical purposes, like inventory management. After all, they started as a way to track automotive parts in the manufacturing industry. 

Generally, barcodes have been the go-to choice for inventory management. But QR codes offer several advantages over traditional barcodes. Unlike barcodes, QR codes can be edited and updated with new information, making them a more efficient and flexible tool. In an eCommerce setting, this means the ability to easily update product information and track the real-time availability of inventory.

Additionally, QR codes can hold much more data than traditional barcodes, allowing for more specific and detailed inventory tracking. And since QR codes can be read with a smartphone, there's no need to invest in dedicated scanners.

Steps to create a QR code campaign

Itching to get started on your own QR code campaigns for your eCommerce business? Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward. If you need a little guidance, follow these steps:

#1: Determine the type of information you want to share.

Depending on the data you want to share, you'll select the corresponding QR code type. Suppose you want to share a coupon code for your online store. In this case, you'll create a Coupon QR code. If you want customers to download your mobile app, you'll create an App Store QR code. 

#2: Choose between a static or dynamic QR code.

Static QR codes can only contain fixed information, while dynamic QR codes can be edited and tracked. If you want to frequently update the information or track how many people are accessing it, you may want to go with a dynamic QR code. But if the information will remain constant, a static QR code might be more appropriate. 

#3: Generate and design your QR code.

You'll find plenty of free QR code generators online. These tools will allow you to input your chosen information and even customize the design of your QR code. 

#4: Test and implement your QR code.

Test the QR code with a scanner before using it in your eCommerce strategy. Then, you can start incorporating it into your marketing materials and product packaging to offer your shoppers a more streamlined experience.

#5: Track and analyze QR code performance.

If you opted for a dynamic QR code, you'll be able to track how many people have scanned your code and view metrics such as location and scanning device. This data can give you insight into the effectiveness of your QR code campaign and inform future strategies.

Tips to get the most out of your QR campaigns

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind as you start incorporating QR codes into your eCommerce strategy:

Figure out if using QR codes is a good idea

Not every campaign or brand will benefit from using QR codes. Consider your target audience and the purpose of your campaign before deciding if incorporating a QR code is the best approach. 

If your target audience skews older or isn't as tech-savvy, they may not be as likely to use a QR code. In that case, sticking to more traditional marketing tactics may be a better fit. However, if your target audience is technologically adept, incorporating a QR code can add an element of novelty and innovation to your campaign. 

Keep it simple and mobile-friendly

When designing your QR code, bear in mind that most people will scan it with their smartphones. Make sure the landing page or content it leads to is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Additionally, try not to cram too much information into a single code. Keep it simple and direct, with one clear call to action or message.

Organize your resources ahead of time

QR codes may be cost-effective marketing tools, but if you're new to using them, you may want to start small and test their effectiveness before fully committing to a full-scale campaign. Just like any other marketing project, it's important to have a clear plan and budget in place before you get started. 

Also, if you aren't particularly tech-savvy and data tracking isn't your strength, you may have to allocate resources to train employees or outsource some tasks. Before launching your first QR code campaign, make a resource schedule outlining who will be responsible for each stage of the project. That way, you can ensure that everything runs smoothly and avoid any last-minute scrambling.

Choose the right printing material

The material you print your QR code on can greatly influence its scannability. Choose a material that won't reflect too much light or distort the image, and avoid uneven surfaces like ribbed cardboard. Always test your QR code before fully committing to a printing material to ensure it can be easily scanned.

Pick the right size and placement

Avoid making your QR code too small or placing it in an area where it may blend in with other designs or graphics. Your code should stand out to catch the attention of potential scanners. A good rule of thumb is to make your code at least 2x2 inches and consider placing it in a prominent location such as the center or top corner of your packaging or advertisement.

Use QR codes to your advantage

Ecommerce is one sector that's constantly evolving. What worked five years ago may not work today, and what works today may be obsolete in five years. That's why eCommerce leaders always have to be on the lookout for new trends that could potentially disrupt the status quo.

QR code is one such trend that's been gaining momentum in recent years. And rightly so! By providing value and an interactive customer experience, QR codes can boost brand engagement, drive traffic to your website, and potentially increase sales. So, if you're ready to shake up your marketing game, give QR codes a try and see the results for yourself.