Get Used to QR Codes. They’re Here to Stay.

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QR codes are widely used in China. Scanning a QR code is the most efficient and prevalent way to ad friends, follow brands, and even pay one's bills

QR codes are widely used in China. Scanning a QR code is the most efficient and prevalent way to add friends, follow brands, and even pay one’s bills

QR codes. What are they and what are they doing here? Anyone in China longer than a week knows WeChat, with more than 600 million active users, and its QR code function is the easiest way to make friends. Not only that, but these codes can also be used to enter websites, follow brand pages, and even pay for everyday items.

QR code origins

QR codes, which stand for Quick Response code, were first used by Japanese car manufacturer Denso Wave, a Toyota subsidiary company, as a kind of elaborate bar code, and quickly spread to other regions of the world due to their versatility. QR codes hold a great deal of information, containing “up to 7,089 characters compared to traditional barcodes that hold at most 20 digits”.

QR codes are a great solution for firms who need to quickly display a great deal of information.

QR code a modern necessity?

Do we need this? Well, in an era where technological advances involve removing the hassle of inserting your hand into your pocket to pick up your phone and instead creating watches from which you can direct what goes on in your mobile device–well, in that era, QR codes are necessary.

Smartphone in hand scanning code, isolated on white

Scanning QR codes are easier than swapping phone numbers or pulling out one’s wallet to pay for goods.

It is easier to show your screen to the cashier than to take your wallet out. It is also easier to swipe your phone over another screen than it is to spell out numbers and letters in China.

QR Codes are an integral part of Chinese mobile platforms

The popularity and widespread usage of QR codes in China is intimately linked to WeChat. In China, QR codes allow quick access to long complex links, since they don’t involve typing in English, or typing at all.

As TechCrunch reports, Alibaba used QR codes to their advantage by allowing shoppers to quickly purchase products from partner vendors. In 2014, Alibaba announced that it would launch virtual credit cards which used QR codes.

alibaba-credit-card-720x576

Alibaba announced that it would launch virtual credit cards which used QR codes.

QR Codes can encourage brand awareness

QR codes can be used to enhance brand awareness, as scanning a code can lead to a number of multimedia platforms including Html-5 pages, video games, and even video content. In Resonance China’s Sephora Digital Report, the agency found Sephora used QR codes to link customers to their mobile ecommerce platform.

Resonance China investigates Sephora's use of QR codes in establishing their mobile ecommerce platform.

Resonance China investigates Sephora’s use of QR codes in establishing their mobile ecommerce platform.

It should not come as a surprise Alibaba spent millions earlier this year on a start-up that aims to make QR codes appear more colorful and attractive to users. The codes often feature prominently on signs and posters, and making them appealing to the naked eye can potentially make or break a marketing campaign.

QR codes can help ensure product quality

QR codes can also help fight fakes–a QR code can send a customer to an online platform that guarantees the product’s authenticity. In January of 2015, Alibaba revealed its investment in Visualead, an Israeli startup that not only helps brands make colorful QR codes but also ensures product authenticity.

Alibaba invested in Israeli start up Visualead, which creates colorful QR codes that also determine product authenticity

Alibaba invested in Israeli start up Visualead, which creates colorful QR codes that also determine product authenticity

Visualead’s technology powers a tool called Blue Star, which prints out unique scannable QR codes for individual packages. When scanned using Taobao’s mobile app, an image appears confirming or denying the product’s authenticity.

QR Codes can enhance experiences by providing quick access to information

The colonisation of our daily life by the QR codes extends beyond just Wechat, and even into the realms of the art world. This year’s ‘Dali and the Media’ Exhibition in Shanghai uses QR codes to provide additional virtual information and links about the artist. Tourist buses and history teachers are also using them, assuming that for better or worse, we live our lives through our phones.

Salvador Dali exhibit

The current ‘Dali and the Media’ Exhibition in Shanghai uses these QR codes to provide additional virtual information and links about the artist.

QR codes are here to stay

Whatever their designated use–QR codes are here to stay. They are imbued with a sense of mystery and expectation which firms can thrive off, as enticing as the best ads and as universalised as mobile phones in China.

To see how every big brand in China such as Sephora and Adidas are utilizing this black and white blueprint to deploy their marketing strategies, check out Resonance China’s Marketing Reports.

About Author

Social Brand Watch (SBW) is a collection of experts in digital, mobile and social media in China. SBW was created to complement Resonance's China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly report focusing on modern marketing methods of the world's top brands in China.

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