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Using 2D Barcodes

Two-dimensional barcodes, or Quick Response (QR) barcodes, contain alphanumeric text and can feature URLs that will direct users to sites where they can learn about an object or place, as well as text information. This is also known as “mobile tagging”. Software on devices such as camera phones decodes the information, which is considerably more information than a one-dimensional code of similar size.

2D codes are being found increasingly in places such as product labels, billboards and buildings. These codes allow people to use their mobile phones to uncover the encoded information.

Codes can also provide tracking information for products in industry, routing data on a mailing label or contact information on a business card. The codes are small, allowing them to be integrated into an attractive image in newspapers, magazines or clothing.

2D codes are popular in Japan, where they are used for commercial tracking, logistics, inventory and advertising. Their popularity is climbing in Europe, the United States and Canada where people increasingly use mobile phones to access the ever improving networks. In academics, their use has been limited. They have been used by some instructors in slide presentations to direct students to websites where the slide deck is hosted or where additional information can be found.

In England, a grant-funded venture, led by Andy Ramsden at Bath University, investigates ways to use QR codes in academic settings. Ramsden has conducted “idea factories” or brainstorming sessions at other campuses. These have resulted in a number of proposed uses for QR codes, including putting them into library books with the renewal phone number encoded or putting them in equipment rooms where they might be scanned to access a how-to manual. Some of the institutions see potential in using QR codes to direct students to RSS feeds or lecture podcasts.

Although originally used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now have a wider use in businesses today. Some of these applications include, commercial tracking, entertainment and transport tracking. In retail they are being used for product loyalty marketing, such as mobile couponing where a company’s discounted and percent discount can be obtained using a mobile app. They can also store a company’s information including address and other related information.

QR codes have become the focus of a sound advertising strategy since they provide quick and effortless access to the brand’s website. In addition to convenience for the consumer, the importance of this capability is that it increases the conversion rate. This means that it increases the chance that contact with the advertisement will convert to a sale. QR codes allow the retailer to persuade their target customers by bringing them to the store’s site immediately, where a longer and more targeted sales pitch can take place.
Implementing a successful 2D barcode marketing campaign takes a good deal of thought and planning. First of all you need to make sure your targeted audience is comfortable with using 2D in the way you planned to present it. Since this application is not the standard but rather growing in popularity, it shouldn’t be used as the only means of providing information.

In most cases, having the code link to a webpage is better than embedding a text message directly into it. When including a website remember that the shorter the URL is, the smaller you can make your 2D barcode. URL shortening sites can be used to make the address much shorter and free up space. Since a smartphone is needed to visit the website, it’s a good idea to include the website address next to the barcode, just incase a customer without the reading capabilities on their device wants to view the information.

When you have developed your 2D barcode test it out on multiple devices, using multiple readers. Also test it out using the location, placement and lighting where it will typically be used. Testing the code is very important since you want it to be successful, but also so that people’s frustration with a defective marketing tool won’t reflect negatively on your business and product, not to mention it can be costly and result in poor marketing campaign performance.
Future of 2D barcodes
2D barcodes can store quite complex information in a small matrix. As awareness grows about how useful they are, we
can expect to see them in more public venues. Commercial packaging will display codes with detailed nutritional information or links to websites where customers can register for updates or coupons.

In academics, QR codes on student test could help ensure anonymity in grading. Posted next to artwork, in musical or theatrical programs may lead students to open forums where they could join in community discussions about what they’ve heard or seen.

The truth is the possibilities are endless in the case of 2D barcodes, and we have only begun to use them in the informative and innovative ways they were intended.

For an in-depth look at specific barcode systems, go to

Image cc Flickr via nickj365