Technology’s Newest Marketing Tool: QR Codes


You’ve seen them popping up everywhere—those perfectly square little black & white blobs that look like a mini labyrinth or the background of a Pac Man game. Some people have mistaken them for a new type of bar code and others just scratch their heads, wondering what in the world are they?

“They” are Quick Response (QR) Codes, so called because a Smartphone can read them quickly. Originating from Japan where they are very common, they take a piece of information from a transitory media—such as a brochure or flyer, web page, business card, billboard or a magazine advertisement—and enable you to scan it into your Smartphone.  Once it is there, you are able to read details about that business or person, including giving you a URL that you can click to see anything from a trailer for a movie, to a coupon that you can use in a local outlet.
A QR Code is actually a two-dimensional barcode, but unlike standard barcodes, QR codes can store (and digitally present) much more data, including URL links, geo coordinates, and text, putting much more information at the reader’s fingertips. For instance, if you’ve created print material that includes a URL for more information, a QR code for that URL could also be added to enable Smartphone users to go directly to your web page. 
This technology is quickly being utilized by area REALTORS® and builders who find they can market their properties much more effectively by having prospective clients scan the QR code they place on their ads, business cards, brochures, or signs.
“I try to make it so there is a QR code on every advertisement I do,” said Cynthia Hash with Keller Williams. Hash said she was one of the first REALTORS® to implement QR codes in her ads. “Each one is different,” she added. “If you have the application on your Smartphone, you can take a picture of the QR code. That picture scans a signal to the URL and takes you to different pages on my website.”
Hash said she has found the QR codes especially useful on her signs. Prospective buyers can scan the code and instantly be taken on a tour of the property. She finds this method of marketing more effective than flyer boxes.
“Instead of using a flyer box, many REALTORS® are going to QR codes,” she explained. “There is no comparison of using that high technology versus a flyer box where the wind could blow it open, your flyers can get wet from rain and you end up looking rather unprofessional because you haven’t refilled the box with clean flyers. I would rather look professional and high tech and give them a QR code to scan about the property rather than work with a flyer box. This way they either can open a web browser on their phone and type in my website address from my sign, or scan the QR code to take a virtual tour of the property they’re either standing in front of or reading about in The Real Estate Weekly.”
Jonathan Kauffmann, Principal Broker of Nest Realty, says QR codes are a great way to create an interactive experience for his clients and customers. “It’s important to engage today’s consumer and allow them have control over the information flow,” he said. “QR codes enable us to do that and really give potential buyers and sellers an avenue to dig deeper into a particular property or neighborhood.”
Marina Ringstrom, a Better Homes and Garden Real Estate III Listing Specialist, began using QR codes last year when she saw them in magazines she picked up on airplanes .“I noticed certain high-end companies were using them and I wondered what they were,” she said.
It did not take her long to find out and once she did, she quickly implemented their use into her marketing campaign. “I love them because each is like a snowflake—no two are alike. You can have multiple codes for multiple uses. I decided to turn this new technology into an advantage for me and to help my sellers and buyers make life easier.”
The key to using the QR codes is, of course, having a Smartphone.  “People who have Smartphones want technology like this to make the phones even more useful and fun,” said Ringstrom.  “Knowing this, I immediately created a QR code for my website. I had all my signs redone with the QR code on it. This way when someone on a Sunday night is driving by one of the houses I am selling and they know they can’t look at it right there and then, they can take out their Smartphone, scan the QR code and my website will open with details about that house.  It’s like a 24-7 assistant for me and the number one way to drive prospective buyers to my website to get assistance when they cannot reach me personally.”
Ringstrom also made a 12 x 12 magnet with a QR code that she has on the back of her car.  “That, together with my image marketing, continues to brand who I am.  I’m all about marketing, keeping on top of the latest technology. And while I don’t expect someone to scan the back of my car, I have seen them do it in the parking lot!”
To illustrate how fast this technology is changing, Ringstrom said that two years ago the marketing mantra among REALTORS® was “don’t print anything without your website listed on it.” Now it’s “don’t print anything without a QR code.”
Ringstrom marvels at the technology behind QR codes. “I have no idea how they are able to make each code different and now there has to be millions of them out there. Plus as a marketing tool, it’s free! Isn’t that the most unbelievable thing? What is free that is technologically savvy?” 
Drew Holzwarth, Principal, Piedmont Realty and Construction said this new technology isn’t something to wish for—it’s a “must have.”
“In order to be effective in today’s challenging marketplace, I have found it mandatory to stay relevant and project a clear and concise message,” Holzwarth said. “The use of QR Codes has allowed Piedmont Realty & Construction to do just that. I find the QR Codes to be a key element in delivering our corporate philosophy and company vision to our buyers.”
For those of you who have an iPhone or Android and want to know how to take advantage of this new technology, go to your app store and search for one of many free QR code reader applications. It takes only a minute to find and install the reader.
For those who wish to acquire QR codes for a marketing campaign, there are a number of QR code-generating sites include Kaywa, Qurify and Delivr. The Google URL Shortener will also create a QR code file from a shortened link file.
“I think we’re still in a growth and learning phase with QR codes in Central Virginia—not everyone understands them at this point,” said Kauffmann. “At Nest, we’ve seen limited success in our use of QR codes.  However, we still think there are some unique opportunities to use QR codes to serve as a link between print and digital media as they become more widely understood.”
So keep an eye out for those strange little square boxes. They may be small in size, but on the information highway, they’re the big rigs!