The pandemic has helped make QR codes more universal than ever, because this technology is perfect for allowing consumers to use their smartphones to navigate to a web page without touching anything.  Just point your phone’s camera to QR code to bring up a menu, store hours, special offers or even payment options.

The idea of QR codes (named for Quick Response codes) originated with a Japanese automotive company in 1994.  When I last wrote about them in this blog over a decade ago, a special app was needed to read the codes – but in 2017, according to tech author Scott Stratten, Apple made it possible for the cameras in iPhones to recognize QR codes, spreading the technology more widely. The fact that smartphones are now almost universal has also helped increase the use of QR codes.

How can independent retailers make good use of QR codes?  Start by thinking about your exterior signage. The code can take those walking by directly to your website, or to a landing page with your store hours.  Posting a link to a special offer can serve as incentive to bring potential customers inside.

Shoppers can quickly access more information about merchandise on your shelves if you have a QR code posted in your displays.  Imagine, for example, being able to lead a customer to a page showing how quilled cards are made, or how to use a new craft tool.   This won’t take the place of good customer service, but it is a free way to provide additional information to encourage a purchase. Just be sure not to link to a page that allows customers to buy the item online from another business.

Advertising, especially in print, should almost always include a QR code leading to your website – or to a special landing page associated with that specific code. You could, for example, create a contest and have the QR code go directly to the contest or giveaway offer.  Customers can always type in your URL to get to your store’s site, but navigating to a special page can be more challenging without a QR code.

Large retailers use QR codes for inventory management, since they can hold more information than bar codes.  There are also ways to use QR codes for payment, especially via PayPal.  If you are interested in this option. click on this link.  (This would have been a great opportunity to insert a QR code, wouldn’t it?)

How do you generate a QR code?  There is generally no cost to do so, which makes the technology available to us all.  Canva, the Australian online design platform that I use all the time, can now create codes for you to add to business cards, signs and posters.  Shopify also has a QR code generator for those who use their program. When generating a QR code, there are also options to include your logo, add performance tracking ability, or have it create a basic landing page.  This blog post from will help you choose the generator that is best for you.

As Monika Adarsh, author of the Medium article notes, “with little or no initial investment, QR Codes provide a rich and dynamic consumer experience.” If you haven’t given them a try, now is the time!

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder