Marketing Your App With QR Codes: A Beginner’s Guide for App Developers

By David Oragui / 6 March 2018

Learn how to create and use QR codes to simplify your audience’s life and increase app downloads at the same time. Contrary to popular belief, there is value in using QR codes as a marketing tool to reach your target market. You just need to think outside the box, and this post will show you how.

QR (Quick Response) has changed the way we reach and interact with our target audience. While marketers may tout QR codes as useless, when used effectively they’re one of the fastest ways to increase mobile app downloads and drive users further down the mobile app marketing funnel.

Verizon used QR codes to promote apps on its Droid devices.

Each QR code linked the user to a relevant app on the Android marketplace for an instant download.

Verizon QR code campaign for Droid devices

This campaign resulted in Verizon’s QR codes being scanned 150K times in 3 months, making it the most successful ScanLife campaign in North America.

As you can see, a well thought out QR code marketing campaign can help you increase app downloads and boost brand awareness without spending a lot of money.

This article will teach you how to create and use QR codes to market your mobile app.

  • What a QR code is
  • How to create a QR code for your mobile app
  • How to use QR codes to market your app

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What Is a QR Code?

A QR code (quick response) is a machine-readable 2D barcode that consists of black and white squares that store information (mostly URLs).

example of QR code

It only takes a few seconds for a camera to scan a QR code, making the stored information accessible right away.

illustration of process to scan a QR code with smartphone

QR codes are easy-to-create, inexpensive, and universally applicable. This is what makes them an important component of any marketing campaign.

You can reach any smartphone user with a QR code without intermediaries or special equipment.

Since the primary target of a QR code is a smartphone user, this makes it easy to promote your app to your ideal customers.

However, the role of QR codes in a marketing campaign isn’t to increase app downloads only. You also can use them to send users to landing pages, your app’s website, social media accounts, or any other URL.

For example, QR code generator and designer Scanova uses QR codes to increase its Facebook page likes.

Scanova's Facebook page, which visitors can access through a QR code

When users scan the unique QR code, it brings them to Scanova’s Facebook page, which encourages visitors to like the page and “sign up.”

Additional Reading: Pros and Cons of Using QR Codes to Market Your App

How to Create a QR Code for Your Mobile App

Creating QR codes for your mobile app is easy, fun and most important, free. Follow the steps below to create a QR code from scratch.

Step 1: Choose a QR Code Generator or Tool

There are many free, paid, and open source QR code generators.

Kaywa is a paid QR code management tool, while QR Code Generator is a free tool.

Some tools have more functionality than others. However, if you’re looking for something simple and easy to use, then a free tool is all you need.

Step 2: Design Your Code

Using the free QR Code Generator, enter your preferred URL, contact info, text, or any other information you need.

enter information in QR code generator

Save your code.

save your QR code

Congratulations, you’ve just created a QR code in under 60 seconds.

Step 3: Test Your QR Code

After you’ve saved your QR code, test it on multiple smartphones (Android and iOS) to ensure it works.

Consider using multiple QR readers when testing too. After all, the last thing you need is hordes of traffic attempting but failing to reach your mobile app’s landing page due to an error.

Step 4: Share Your QR Code

Once you have tested your QR code and it’s working fine, you’re ready to share it with the world.

Use QR Codes to Market Your App

Creating and sharing a QR code isn’t enough. You must promote it heavily otherwise it won’t get scanned and will end up in the same state as everyone else’s “failed QR code marketing campaigns.”

So here’s 7 strategies to help you distribute your QR codes to increase brand visibility, downloads, and retention rates for your mobile app.

1. Use QR Codes on Your Business Cards

There’s no better place for a QR code than on your business card. Shelby Montross’ business card has the company’s brand name and a QR code.

Shelby Montross' business card has QR code

This QR code (without any additional information) gets a lot of scans because it makes people curious.

You can link your QR code on the business card to your app, blog, social media accounts, or any landing page.

Better yet, you can use multiple small QR codes on your business card, linking each to a different URL.

2. Use QR Codes in Your Email Signature

How many emails do you send a day? Why not use your QR code in your email signature?

There are 2 reasons why QR codes in an email signature work better than on a business card:

  • It doesn’t cost money
  • You send more emails a day than you distribute business cards.

Here is how it works in the email signature.

QR code in email signature

Make your QR code clickable (doable with several QR code generators) so people who view your email from their mobile device can click it to access your app.

3. Share QR Codes on Social Media

Use social media to promote your QR code. But, you have to be creative because people won’t scan (or click) a QR code just because you shared it with your followers on Twitter or Linkedin.

For instance, you can run a quiz by hiding QR codes in an image and let your followers find and scan QR codes.

When sharing your QR code on social media, don’t forget to add an alternative CTA so mobile users don’t miss it.

clickable CTA on Facebook post sharing QR code so mobile users can access it

Your QR code should deliver exceptional value to your followers, such as a free trial, so it gets attention.

Alternately, you can run an ad campaign on Facebook or Twitter, targeting people based on the type of device they have.

For example, creating an ad with a QR code exclusively for people using Facebook on a laptop will make it easier for them to scan the code from their phone and download your app.

4. Use QR Codes in Print Ads

Get your QR code printed in local newspapers or magazines and let people scan it. It will cost you money, but you won’t regret your decision.

Businesses, small and large, use QR codes in print. Take popular clothing brand Ralph Lauren as an example.

Ralph Lauren magazine ad with QR code

If your QR code happens to land on the right newspapers and magazines, it can help you reach a massive audience.

5. Use QR Codes on Posters, Banners, and Billboards

Posters, labels, packages, billboards, and banners, are great mediums for promoting your mobile app via a QR code.

Instead of having an advertisement for your mobile app on a billboard, why not add a QR code too so people can instantly access your app without manually having to type in the URL?

Mother's Day QR code on big billboard in mall

Having your QR code on a poster, billboard, or banner makes it easier for people who are interested in your app to get it immediately.

Alternately, you can partner with businesses and have your QR codes printed on their products, exposing your mobile app to thousands of potential customers.

For example, Taco Bell and ESPN ran a QR code campaign to promote the Bowl Championship Series.

Taco Bell and ESPN QR code campaign for football season

More than 225,000 Taco bell customers scanned the QR code that was featured on cups and taco boxes.

6. Use QR Codes in Local Businesses and Stores

Aliqua, a natural cosmetics brand in Germany, initiated a QR campaign by distributing 55 QR posters throughout Germany.

Aliquia QR code poster in local grocery store

The campaign initiated 1000 scans in the first few days.

You don’t have to put your app QR code in every local store but you have to carefully handpick the most appropriate stores where your target audience congregates and spends money. This will boost awareness of your app and increase downloads.

Better yet, give people an offer they cannot resist.

QR code offering a free prize if person scans

The example above shows a QR code that includes a prize for people who scan.

7. Use QR Codes on Relevant Websites

QR codes on relevant websites are like banner ads. Visitors can scan them to access your app.

See the QR code for a local realtor that’s embedded on a real estate company’s website.

real estate agent's QR code on local real estate company's website

Since your code will be accessible on a website, ensure that it’s clickable so mobile visitors can also view it too.

Remember, this strategy will cost you money because websites won’t publish your code for free.

QR Codes Beneficial for Marketing Your Mobile App

Much like organic Facebook marketing, if you approach it like everyone else does, you won’t get very far.

However, if you think outside the box, you can acquire customers you never thought existed.

QR codes are all about immediacy. Your customers don’t have to remember your brand’s name, search for it on an app marketplace, and download it – all they have to do is scan or click.

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