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QR Codes: A Big Risk for Business?

A Quick Response (QR) Code is a two-dimensional barcode or matrix code easily read using a Smartphone with dedicated software. Although Denso Wave designed this technology for use in the automotive industry, it has since become extremely popular as a tactic in marketing strategy. While mammoth QR codes adorn the offices of large organizations in Japan, they do not yet have quite the same presence in the US. That said, with 14 million users scanning a QR code or barcode during the month of June 2011, and the number of Smartphone users increasing healthily, is now the time to introduce QR codes as part of your business strategy?

How They Work

QR codes work by revealing a URL that a Smartphone can open with freely available reader software. This process–known as hardlinking–makes information immediately and effortlessly accessible. The link can guide the user to anything, whether it’s an online store or details about an upcoming event. This makes for an impressive conversion rate, whatever your business offers. What’s more, QR codes can help you run your business smoothly. Apply them to parcels for commercial tracking. Use them to create travel tickets. They could even upgrade your in-store product labeling system. The list of uses is truly endless.

What They Won’t Do

Don’t get too excited, though. QR codes cannot provide the foundations of your business strategy. By their very nature, each matrix code acts as a pathway, not an entry or a destination. If used as a marketing device, you’ll need to get people wanting to scan your codes with an effective advert. Then you need to make them stick to the URL once with a well-designed website. QR codes will not turn around the core workings of a business either. For example, though scanning a QR code will instantly bring up all the details on a product you sell, you must make sure that your information is correct, up-to-date and comprehensive.

QR Dangers

Avoiding these two pitfalls is not all you need to worry about either. ‘Attagging’ (an amalgam of attack and tagging) is a new threat that has the potential to put a user’s privacy, and even money, at risk. Easily stuck over legitimate QR codes, they can use the permission granted by a barcode reader app to analyze sensitive data on an external server. Perhaps more worrying, a malicious QR Code in Russia led to users unwittingly sending $6 premium texts (http://www.bullguard.com/bullguard-security-center/security-articles/malicious-qr-codes.aspx). If these sorts of issues make their way to the US, there is a chance that users will not be willing to scan in QR codes, which would be a big problem if you decide to employ them as a tactic in your business.

How to Do Your Own

QR codes could hugely assist your business if used as part of a strong strategy. It’s simple to make your own: just visit a website like qrcode.kaywa.com, type in the vital info and click ‘generate’. This is great for anyone looking to create legitimate codes, but it also means that less lawful types can easily take advantage. Like any new technology, QR codes have benefits and risks. But you can offset the dangers: inform customers to use a scanning app that previews URLs, warn them be extra vigilant with the open platform Android OS and perhaps suggest that they install a mobile security app. That way you can enjoy all of the advantages of QR codes, pulling in new customers and connecting with existing ones or just improving the operation of your business, without putting users’ privacy at risk.

Author Bio:Alyse is a marketing, photography, and tech addict who spends her time investigating the next generation of technology. When she is not brushing up on her art of the scientific know how in the world, you can find her contributing to ATTSavings.com or on Twitter @Alyse_1.

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