Creating smart QR Codes

Screen shot 2011 06 14 at 11 04 38 AM
…An example of QR codes & my column

QR codes seem to be the media’s most recent marketing darling.  You’ll find lots of articles talking about how to use them, including a couple I’ve written (read here and here).  And in March, I shared Central Park’s incredible QR campaign to inspire you to give this technology a try.

Along with the various online places where you can find my marketing thoughts, I am a weekly columnist for Iowa’s business journal, the Business Record.  A few months ago, we started adding a QR code feature to my columns — to share extra resources and to demonstrate how QR codes can work.  (the screen capture is of one of my columns that has migrated from their print product to their website)

When we decided to add this feature, I decided I wanted a QR code creator that was a bit more robust than some of the free sites I’d been using.  We weren’t ready for custom shapes (check out these designs) — but I did want to know how many scans each code had and if there was a pattern to when the scans were occurring.

After reviewing many options, I am down to two choices.  The “must haves” for me were:

  • Could create a high resolution QR code (need it for the print publication and for some of our client’s work)
  • Reporting/tracking capabilities
  • Good customer support if we had questions

The first contender is QReate & Track by InterlinkONE.  They do offer a free membership/option but I opted for the $19/month version so I could get the reporting.  That reporting includes:

  • Number of scans
  • Scans by day, time and month, year etc.

Really, for most local businesses, that’s plenty unless you’re going to do some serious number crunching.  In terms of easy access for support, they have a forum, a blog and you can e-mail them your question.  They’re also here in the states so for me, that’s a time zone advantage.

The second contender is from the UK.  They too offer a free option but I went for the 6.99 GBP($11 something/month) because I needed to create more than 3 campaigns a month.  The big difference between the two is in the reporting.  With, I can track:

  • Realtime # of scans
  • Bounce rate
  • Pageviews
  • Unique scans
  • Time on page
  • What barcode reader was used
  • What type of mobile device was used
  • The geography of the scanner (down to the city)

Clearly a more robust reporting menu.  One of the other cool features to this site is the ability to set a goal.  For example,  my QR code could lead you to a landing page where I offered something for sale.  The goal URL could be the thank you page that you’d go to after making a purchase.  Now the reporting shows me not only how many hit the landing site and where else they went — but how many did what I wanted them to do — buy something.

As for support — they have a very simple online manual to answer the most basic of questions and I can open a ticket and submit a question/request to their team.

I haven’t quite landed on the best option for us at McLellan Marketing Group yet — but both of these providers have served our purposes for now but it’s hard to argue with PushQR’s in depth reporting and lower price.

How about you?  Are you creating QR codes?  How are you using them?  Do you have a favorite tool?


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18 comments on “Creating smart QR Codes

  1. Jamie Bagenstos says:

    Very helpful post! As you noted, there are an abundance of QR Code creators available which can be a little overwhelming when beginning to dive into QR Codes. I’ll definitely be checking out both options you reviewed. Thank you!

    1. Jamie,

      Come on back and let us know what you thought.


  2. Hi Drew,

    Perfect timing, because we were just talking about QR codes in a client meeting this morning. Thanks for doing some homework on this, because I figured someone had to have some decent tracking software built into the service (a la a for QR codes).

    1. Daria,

      I’ll be curious to hear about your experiences with the creators. You’re right — the tracking on these do remind me of’s efforts. Been to any good ball games lately?


      1. Why yes I have, as my Nats are on a bit of a winning streak of late. 🙂 Trying to climb back to 500… How about you? And, by the way, when are you coming to D.C. to go to a game with me?


        1. Daria,

          They have been on a bit of a tear lately. Always fun to watch! I’ve been watching games from afar — but we have caught a few of the AAA Cubs here in Des Moines. One of these days I am going to have the opportunity to take you up on that — I promise!


  3. Coleman —

    It’s an interesting trend. Some are saying that it will pass quickly and shift to geo location advertising. But one’s a push and the other a pull, so I suspect there’s room for both.


  4. Thatcher Williams says:

    I used QR codes on our posters for the 711 Theatre Project posters and playbills this year. Also, I put a QR code at the box office to offer a ‘paperless’ playbill for our show for those with smartphones. It was a text-only version of the playbill and it was promoted with the idea to save resources.

    All my QR codes were made with Google’s Zebra Crossing ( Free, easy – and it has both a generator and an online line decoder to verify results. The latter half was important, because due to the fact that QR codes are to have a strong redundancy system – I wanted to do a basic modification. I was able to make the QR code on our posters have ‘711’ built in and still work.

    I do not need tracking software to know when/bounce rate/etc. However, I am able to utilize my own web sites site statistic information if I wanted to know how many times it has been used.

    Simply by having the QR code embedded with a URL that is solely used for it, I would be able to track how often, when, etc. All within the current capabilities of knowing my web-traffic.

    Since my main use for QR codes would be for theatre – I’m trying to wrap my mind around not just logical uses for it, but for added-value for patrons. A special message from the director of a play with behind-the-scenes video? Scan it to send prewritten SMS ‘kudos’ to a cast member (one QR code per cast member) or director, or in general to the theatre company – with the written understanding that by using it they are also signing up to be on a SMS mail list for discount tickets, other specials and notifications.

    Could be used for interactive theatre, or for extra-door prizes for an event (“scan here for a bonus drawing for our smart phone users”) with same mail list information, voting in an American Idol-style competition, etc.

    QR codes can be used for so much – not just getting people a message or to your website. If something cannot be captured as an end result to be used for marketing your business/organization – it’s not being fully implemented as part of your overall business plan.

    1. Thatcher Williams says:

      wow, that was riddled with redunancies. Sorry. HA!

    2. Thatcher,

      An organization like a theatre could use QR codes in a million ways. I love the idea of exclusive videos and sneak peeks! I agree — it’s a door opening to a new relationship that takes advantage of the exclusivity and multimedia opportunities. I think you can use QR codes to create an intimacy (like your idea about the note to a cast member) that would be so sticky, from a marketing perspective.

      Can’t wait to see you put all those ideas into action!


  5. Nick says:


    Try Tagginn for your QR Code experience! You can Generate, Edit & Track your QR Codes and MS TAG’s.. Free option for 10 Campaigns without a time limit!

    Best wishes,


    1. Thanks Nick — I will check it out!


  6. David says:

    I found a fascinating, if narcissistic use for QR codes as I was loading up my “” page the other day. They allow you to print business cards with your picture on the front and a QR code on the back – which directs people to your page for more info.

    I thought that was definitely a way to give people a more significant introduction to myself and the things I am involved in than just a simple biz card.

    Now I just have to get over the idea of giving people that kind of business card. It’s kind of like giving someone an auto-biography.

    1. Hey David,

      It’s not narcissistic. In the 21st century it’s called leveraging technology to network! And the novelty of the QR code should make everyone forget you just handed them a card that’s all about you. On the other hand — aren’t ALL business cards all about the giver? Your new MOO cards will just be a cooler version!


  7. analyst1 says:

    When someone uses qr code, what information of the user is retained by anyone. Does the qr code user generate/pass his personal information to any database.

    1. Hi,

      The only user information that a QR code can share with the person who created it is the location (city level), type of mobile device (iPhone, Droid etc.). Other than that — it’s more like — what time of day was it scanned? How many pages on the mobile site did they visit etc.


  8. John says:

    I think the potential for paperless event programs is being largely unnoticed right now. I have created a QR for use at a local church. I hope to go to street fairs, concerts, plays (mentioned once above), graduation ceremonies, etc. at which, eventually, a paper program is not even offered.

  9. Jenni says:

    can i use qr to track membership attendance?

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