Remember when you first started seeing those weird, black-and-white barcode-esque squares – themselves comprised of many smaller squares – on everything from posters to products? It was probably around 2010, right? These QR Codes were suddenly all the rage, but as quickly as they appeared, they began to disappear. Why? Because marketers didn’t know quite how to use them in order to make them valuable. Well, the QR Code is back and better than ever! In this blog, we’ll look at the history of the QR Code, why it’s making a comeback and ways to use QR codes (including QR Code surveys, which we’ll also show you how to create).
What Are QR Codes and How Do They Work?
QR Code or QRC is an abbreviation of “Quick Response Code”. It’s a two-dimensional encoded image that, when scanned, delivers hidden information that’s stored on it. The patterns comprising QR codes represent binary codes that can be interpreted by a smartphone camera or a QR scanner to reveal the code’s data.
So how is a QR Code different from a barcode? Barcodes can only be read in one direction, top to bottom. Because of this, they can only store a limited amount of information – and usually only in an alphanumeric format. A QR Code is different. It can be read in two directions, top to bottom and right to left. This allows it to house significantly more data and types of data, including website URLs, phone numbers, or up to 4,000 characters of text.
How Long Have QR Codes Been Around?
It may surprise you to know that QR Codes have actually been around since 1994. They were invented by a Toyota subsidiary named Denso Wave to improve the manufacturing process of vehicles and parts and to improve upon the limitations of the traditional barcode.
It wasn’t long before marketers saw the potential of QR codes – but, they didn’t always use them to their full potential; often, QR Codes would just send users to a website that they could have easily typed in themselves.
Allison Schiff of AdExchanger sums up the problem with QR Codes in the early days quite well. “They failed as a marketing tool in part because marketers didn’t give people a compelling reason to scan them. I challenge you to find someone who actually wants to be taken to a landing page for more information about their breakfast cereal.”
That’s not all, of course. In the aughts, smartphones weren’t yet in the hands of every consumer, QR scanner apps weren’t readily available, and WiFi wasn’t always accessible. These technological challenges, along with a lack of a good use case for QR Codes, resulted in their disappearance.
Is the QR Code Making a Comeback?
The QR Code is back in a big way. A lot has changed since they first came out. For starters, in 2021, 3.8 billion people now own a smartphone. In addition, QR scanner apps are easily accessible (as is WiFi). Many phones even come pre-programmed with a QR code scanner.
This time around, QR Codes are also being used to their full potential. While they were once just used to share information, their true capabilities are now being fully utilized. Plus, the coronavirus pandemic helped supercharge the use of QR codes (more on this in a moment). Consider some of the ways QR Code are employed now:
Supply Chain Management
QR codes are still very valuable for their original intended purpose, tracking information about products in a supply chain. In 2020, Denso Wave continued to improve on its original design. Their new QR codes include traceability, brand protection, and anti-forgery measures.
Financial transactions can now be done through QR Codes. A customer can scan the QR Code on a product or have a merchant scan the customer’s code with their mobile device to make a contactless payment. This is especially popular in China, but it’s also taking off globally. For example, in the United States and other countries, to rent a public e-scooter or e-bike, often all you need to do is scan a QR Code. And in November, CVS became the first national retailer to offer support for PayPal and Venmo QR codes as a form of touch-free payment at checkout.
Since QR Codes can hold a lot more information than traditional barcodes, mail carriers rely on them to track parcels, as have many companies. For example, global fashion brand ASOS has moved entirely to QR codes for tracking refunds.
Today, QR codes are used by schools and universities to engage with students. They can be found in classrooms, libraries, and on signage to help students find books they’re looking for, help them navigate campus, or direct them to additional information on a topic of interest.
Marketers have gotten savvier about the use of QR Codes. They may use them for gamification to enhance a user’s experience, not just send them to a landing page. Or, they may be used to provide information that otherwise wouldn’t be available and inspire a purchase (for example, if someone liked the outfit a model was wearing in a poster, they could scan the QR Code to go directly to a web page where it could be purchased).
Coronavirus Prevention and Tracing
When the pandemic struck, retailers and restaurants embraced QR Codes due to their contactless nature. Purchases could be made without touching a credit card machine, pen, or paper bill, and contactless menus could be scanned on individuals’ phones. They’ve also been useful for checking COVID-19 test results. In the UK, visitors to hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants can scan a QR code upon arrival using the NHS COVID-19 tracing app. This helps trace and stop the spread of the virus; if someone tests positive for COVID-19 at that venue, other visitors to the location are alerted by an app.
Turning Offline Surveys Into Online Surveys
Surveying people when they’re out and about can be a nightmare. Data collected on paper needs to be transferred into a computer program. Additionally, there is a high risk that the data gets lost during collection or in the transfer process. Additionally, people don’t usually like to be bothered when they’re on the go. With a QR Code, offline surveys go online without the need for contact-heavy kiosk surveys. Respondents can take the survey at their leisure and data is automatically collected online, so there’s no need to transfer hand-written responses to an electronic format.
How To Make a QR Code for Your Survey
So, interested in the benefits of QR Codes for your surveys? Well, it’s super easy to do!
Step 1: Choose Your Favorite QR Code Generator
There are tons of free online services that can generate QR Code tags for you. A simple Google search for “QRC generator” will give you lots of sites to choose from, such as Kaywa, GOQR.mef, Visualead, and QR Stuff.
Keep in mind that some of these services give you the possibility to track and analyze performance and traffic. Some may even let you design a code that’s unique to your brand. For example, it can contain a logo or an image inside of it.
Step 2: Link Your Survey
It is very easy to make QRCs for your online surveys; and it is free, just like SurveyLegend! In this example, we chooseqrgenerator.org which is an open-source QRC generator. You’ll find more detailed instructions for each step below this visual guide.
1: Go to the “Share” step of your survey, and copy the short link that is presented there.
2: Go to https://qrgenerator.org/, make sure that “WEB address” is selected…
3: Paste your survey link into the textbox. Make sure that https:// is included at the beginning of your survey URL to create a secure connection to our surveys and encrypt any data respondents send to SurveyLegend. Read more about our security features here.
4: Click the “Options” button and activate the “URL shortening” setting. This encodes less data in the QR code, making it less visually detailed and easier to print (a more detailed code might lose some of the small black squares when it is shrunk, resulting in scanning errors). SurveyLegend has a built-in URL shortener that already creates super tiny URLs for your online surveys so this is optional if you are sure that your QRC has to be displayed or printed in a very small size.
5: Click on the “Generate” button.
6: Now that the QRC is generated for your online survey, you can save it by clicking the “Download as EPS” button (best for printing large QRCs, say for a billboard or poster) or right-clicking on the QRC image and choosing “Save image as” (this will give you a PNG file, fine for web usage or standard-size printing)
Step 3: Use Your QR Code
Now you can easily Print the QRC on your paper-based surveys, put it on your site or in an email when you send your survey link to the target audience.
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to type the survey URL right underneath the QRC, in case the recipient doesn’t have the possibility of scanning the code. This way, they will still be able to type the URL manually in their browsers to reach your online survey.
So what do you think? Would you like to have a built-in QR Code generator on SurveyLegend? Let us know your opinion by responding to our feature request survey by going to this link. Or, seeing as though this is a blog about QR Codes, simply scan the code below to preview this survey on your smartphone!
When the QR Code was unveiled to the public, it was a technology in search of a purpose. It was quickly dismissed, but ultimately, it was ahead of its time! Today, other technologies have caught up with the QR Code, making it a valuable financial, tracking, and marketing tool. It’s also very popular when it comes to surveying!
Let’s face it, respondents don’t usually have time or desire to fill in paper-based forms. So, if you have to do a parallel paper-based survey for any reason, make sure to include the possibility of taking the online version of the survey for your participants using a QR Code. After all, you want to do everything in your power to motivate your target audience to participate in your survey! After you’ve generated your QR Code, be sure to use SurveyLegend for all your surveying needs. It’s free to get started!
Do you use QR Codes for your surveys? What’s the most innovative way you’ve seen a company use QR Codes? Let us know in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
QR Code or QRC is an abbreviation of “Quick Response Code”. Similar to a barcode, it’s a two-dimensional encoded image that, when scanned, delivers hidden information that’s stored on it.
QR Codes were created in 1994 by a Toyota subsidiary named Denso Wave as an answer to the limitations of the traditional barcode, improving the manufacturing process of vehicles and parts.
Yes! Today’s technology has caught up with the capabilities the QR code can offer, and it’s now used in many industries for taking payments, engaging students and customers, tracking shipments, and tracing the coronavirus.
QR Codes allow for contactless payments and contactless menus, among other things. Testing and vaccination information is often delivered via QR Code, and coronavirus tracing can be done using QR Codes.