Fifteen years ago when websites started appearing in advertisements, store windows, in the media, and on business cards, the average person was perplexed about what they were and most never imagined they would one day be a routine part of our everyday lives.
Fast-forward to 2010 and you might say the same thing about quick response codes (QR codes)—the black-and-white barcodes (shown above) that can unleash Web pages, videos, contact information, and promotions when scanned with a barcode reader app on a smartphone. Wayne Sutton thinks they will become just as ubiquitous and recognizable as the phrase “dot-com”.
QR codes give users an interactive mobile experience while allowing small businesses to collect data and market their services on mobile devices, explains Sutton, business development and marketing strategist at TriOutWorld.com, a geolocation service that helps people “try out” new venues in various cities.
Sutton and his colleagues at the Raleigh, North Carolina-based TriOut were so sure that QR codes were the next wave of the future they incorporated them into their business model when the company launched in February 2010.
Small businesses can use the codes to share sale prices or promotions, portfolios, or collect customer contact information. Once the codes are scanned, businesses can then track customer spending habits and tell where, when, and what type of device scanned the code; whether it was scanned 10 times by one person or 10 times by different people, and where they went before and after they scanned the code.
“QR codes are gateways to build relationships and enhance customer experience which can lead to word-of-mouth marketing,” says Sutton.
Similar to other location-based sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla, TriOut allows users to check in at retailers, using TriOut barcode scanners on their cell phones, and potentially claim rewards and coupons. (Want to learn more about geolocation? Read “Square Biz,” Small Biz, this issue.)
TriOut does the same thing, but with a twist. The free TriOut app, currently available on the iPhone and scheduled for the Android during the first quarter of this year, has a built-in QR code reader. So, instead of checking in, TriOut users scan in with QR codes that businesses display in storefront windows and print on marketing materials. Scanning in makes the check-in process quicker and more accurate since the user doesn’t need to interrupt what they are doing to search for an establishment by typing in its name.
Users can conveniently do a walk-by scan during rush hour or after hours when the business is closed and still get the information they need, says Sutton. Also, users can check in at multiple location-based services with just one scan to catch up with friends on other platforms.
TriOut is free for customers, and any business can create a QR code for free on the TriOut dashboard or with any number of free QR code generators. After a 30-day trial, businesses pay $49.99 per month to communicate directly with their customers and receive real-time alerts and analytics. The codes take users to a company’s landing page on TriOut, which can link back to the company’s own mobile site.