The other week, Stig, our resident support superability, responded to a curly ticket in regards to whether it was possible to add a unique QR code for each recipient. After a little research on his part, the answer was a yes, using Google’s Chart Tools. I’d never heard of Chart Tools, but once I’d started playing, I realized that many of you may find it useful when sending invitations, coupons and other printable things.
Now, QR codes have a bit of a bad reputation. That’s because they’re often used in rather ridiculous ways. So initially, I was a bit skeptical about writing a post, but then I came to realize that they can also be used for good, too. We’ll look at some examples in a bit.
Adding QR codes to your email campaign
Google has done a lot of things to improve the lot of humankind and providing dynamically-generated graphics is one of these things. In the case of QR codes, they have a ‘Infographics’ service – simply append a root URL with parameters, place this final URL in an
<img> tag and voila! A static PNG will be returned to you. Here’s an example:
The Infographics docs include parameters for specifying dimensions and data. Note that the data passed (eg. http://yourpage.com) doesn’t have to be a URL, but does have to be URL-encoded – you can use a URL Encoder to do this.
Once you have this final URL, you can simply add it to your HTML email code. Or, if you want to make it unique and personally identifiable (say, for tracking referrals), you can append it with a template tag:
[email] here, but you can use custom fields, instead.
Sensible uses for QR codes in email (and elsewhere)
Now we’re both QR code experts, lets look at some of their practical applications. First up, QR codes are near-useless on the web and in email clients, as links are by far preferable. But on printed messages, these codes are in their element. Some examples include:
- Generating unique event tickets. If a gig you’re organizing requires tickets, have these sent via email with a unique QR code for a bit of extra security. Patrons can then either bring a printed copy of their ticket or present their mobile device for scanning and validation at the venue.
- Adding a discount code for scanning in-store. If you use an e-commerce platform like Shopify for managing orders at a physical store, you can send out an email to your customers featuring a ‘discount URL’ as QR code. This code can be printed by the customer or displayed on their mobile device, brought in-store and then scanned to place an order. A neat way to incentivize walk-ins!
- Pointing would-be subscribers to your email signup form. Away from the inbox, you can do away with dog-eared ‘sign up to our newsletter!’ paper forms by featuring a QR code in your cafe/market stall/shop that points to your subscribe form. From a privacy perspective, this is more comforting than a paper list, it allows people to sign up in their own time, plus it’s subtle encouragement to check out your website, too.
Finally, I couldn’t wrap up this post without giving Australian artist Yiying Lu a hat-tip. Snapping the handpainted QR code in her artworks takes you through to this magnificent ‘making of’ video:
Do you, or your clients use QR codes in marketing campaigns? Are they a hassle to use, or hustlin’? Let us know in the comments below.