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5 Ways Retailers Can Use QR Codes

A person scanning a QR Code on a phone

The proliferation of online shopping has motivated many retailers to look for creative ways to generate sales, connect with shoppers and distinguish their stores. If you’re looking for a way to add an online dimension to your in-store shopping experience, creating and sharing QR codes is relatively easy and inexpensive. QR codes are also a simple and effective way to connect your offline and online marketing strategies.

What is a QR code?

A Quick Response code or QR code is a square barcode that can be scanned by smartphones, which connect users to a specific destination on the internet. QR codes may link directly to a full website, an online page with product information or store details. They’re a convenient way to share information additional information.

Invented in 1994 for use in automotive manufacturing, QR codes took a long and gradual path to popularity. QR codes gained great popularity in the early 2020s as a way to share information in a “touch-free” manner.

How to create QR codes on product packaging

Using a free or paid QR code generator, you can create QR codes that link to a specific website of your choice. From there, print out the QR code and place it on your packaging. You can place a QR code on stickers that can go on tags or right on the packaging.

When a customer wants to scan a QR code, they simply open the camera app on their Smartphone to scan the QR codes. Though use is widespread these days, you may want to place instructions such as “scan QR codes with your smartphone” next to any signage in your store.

5 retail marketing strategies using QR codes

There’s a variety of ways you can use QR codes:

  1. Create in-store promotions and shopping experiences

    Consider the types of content you’d like to deliver alongside your products—perhaps information about a sale, a link to a coupon or additional information that goes with a specific product. Customers can choose whether or not to engage with your content by scanning the QR code, you can integrate QR codes into your displays by including codes on shelves next to products, on labels or on flyers you distribute.

    Here are a few ideas:

    Smartphone apps

    Use a QR code to link to a custom app you’ve created for your brand.


    Encourage customers to customize their own in-store experiences by scanning certain codes based on interest. For instance, a QR code for parents to scan leading to a fun kids’ activity that goes with the toys you’re selling.


    Offer an in-store–only promo through a QR code you hand out as shoppers enter the store.

    Rewards club

    Encourage customer loyalty with a rewards membership.

    Social media linking

    Connect shoppers with your social media by linking to your store’s Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest profiles.

    Alternative checkout/payment options

    Provide opportunities to quickly check out or pay without cash or a card. Accept PayPal, Venmo or another payment system by linking to it.

    Based on customer feedback, adjust the offers and promotions. Consider asking your regular customers what they’d want to see as well.

  2. Help shoppers buy with links to online listings

    Showrooming is the practice of visiting a brick-and-mortar store for product research before buying online. Don’t lose business to that online mega retailer—give your customers a reason to buy now.

    Link directly to your own online website so customers can view product details, choose different sizes and colors or access special in-store pricing even when ordering for shipping to their home.

  3. Direct customers to connect with your team

    You can also have QR codes lead directly to email or text message templates. For a product that customers may have questions about, this can be a valuable opportunity to engage with them directly. Retailers offering homebrew supplies, for example, could post a QR code offering customers the chance to contact your team once they get home if they have questions about getting started or finding more supplies.

    This strategy helps retailers meet customers and make a sale, even if their shopper is hesitant to try a product or start something new.

  4. Make ads more interactive

    On both your print and online ads, you can place QR codes that allow customers to respond immediately. This helps your business reach buyers while they’re still considering making a purchase. It’s also a way to encourage your customers to start shopping on your website.

  5. Share what you know with customers

    Using a QR code, you can link to a companion site that goes with a product category or a specific topic. This works particularly well in turning unfamiliar activities into adventurous experiences available through purchases at your store.

    A retailer selling garden landscaping, for instance, can link to a website with video and how-to guides about how to pick the best landscape for your local climate. Tips from experienced gardeners can also provide tips on how to ensure your landscaping thrives under varying weather conditions. After visiting this website while in the store, shoppers may feel more confident about purchasing and caring for landscaping to enhance the curb appeal of their home.

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