QR Barcode Code for Web Commerce

A technology that is little known to U.S. consumers, QR barcodes are extremely popular in Japan. These special patterns allow a merchant to encode data that can be read by mobile phones, PC software and peripheral equipment.

It is a 2-dimensional barcode that creates a link between the physical world and the online world. In the image included here, upon taking a snapshot of the chocolate with your cellphone, you are taken to the manufacturer's website for more information and for an opportunity to buy this product and others. To give you an idea how this can work for online merchants, I modified the blogger template for "Scattered Atoms" and enabled a QR barcode for each article. Say you love one of my articles and want to read it on your cell phone? Here are the simple steps to allow you to take a picture with your phone of a QR code on your computer screen so that your phone will immediately take you to the URL of the article!

Install a QR reader on your phone. The one I found most widely available for all phones, including RIM Blackberry, is BeeTagg (point your mobile browser at http://get.beetagg.com/)

  1. Notice that all the articles on my blog now have a "Generate a QR code" link as shown below:

    Click on the QR button and a new window will open with the QR code for the article which looks like this:

  2. Use your cell phone to take a snapshot of the QR code. Your cell phone will identify the link and automatically open the URL that contains the article!
This technology has been used on business cards, public billboards (similar to the bluetooth activated billboards), stamps, in newspaper articles & ads, in printed documents (invoices) as well as food products.

I have come across some innovative business models that build on proprietary encoding of barcode data to lock in an advertiser/business. There are enough publicly available tools to allow any brand marketer to make this technology available to them at low cost in order to bridge the gap between the "material" world and the virtual/online world.

Here are some example applications:
  • A QR barcode taken off a receiving label for a package, opens up the corresponding order on a WAP enabled application for the company's inventory management system
  • A QR barcode in a magazine ad for a particular item, once scanned, takes the consumer to the manufacturer's website
  • A QR barcode on a business card, once scanned, automatically adds the full contact information to the user's cell phone, which is synchronized through their enterprise server (Blackberry) to their address book
  • TSA and Continental Airlines Continue to Expand Paperless Boarding Pass Pilot Program
    Continental now has the technology to stop using paper-based boarding passes. Instead, passengerswill be sent a QR barcode via SMS to their cell phone using encrypted communications. A handheld reader used by staff will scan the barcode from the user's cell phone to register the passenger.
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Launches QR Code Enabled Mobile Commerce Site
    Fashion design powerhouse, Ralph Lauren started using QR code in its catalog and magazine advertising. They offer free software on their website http://m.ralphlauren.com/

In case you are wondering how I am creating these barcodes dynamically, there are a few online services out there:

  • http://www.viooli.com/qrcodegenerator/demo.php
  • http://qrcode.kaywa.com/
    • Once you generate an image with one of these sites, right-click on the image and the properties will reveal the encoding necessary to invoke it directly. I then pass the URL for the blog article into the string dynamically by incorporating this into my blogger template.

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