‘Funky’ codes cropping up in Reno-Sparks area | nnbusinessview.com

‘Funky’ codes cropping up in Reno-Sparks area

Rob Sabo

QR codes those funny black squares that look like a Rorschach test ink blot on steroids are cropping up at businesses and organizations throughout the Truckee Meadows.

Quick Response Codes, working much like bar codes, can be scanned with the camera of a smart phone using a special code-reading application to provide information to consumers.

For real estate brokerages, the decision to use QR codes is two-fold: It’s a cost-effective means of providing prospective homebuyers with instant information, as well as a way to remain on the forefront of an emerging technology.

“It tells you that we are cutting edge. It is eye-catching because it is different, and people want to know about it,” says Kristen Gil, Realtor with Intero Real Estate Services.

Intero began using QR codes just over three months ago. The company’s codes contain an agent’s business card and a Web site link that displays the selling price and status of a home, as well as virtual tours of the property. Homebuyers with smart phones can see the inside of a home while standing curbside or sitting in their cars.

Realtors also don’t have to print flyers anymore, Gil says, which provides cost savings as well as eliminates a great deal of paper waste. Intero has begun printing QR codes on its agents’ business cards as well as all for-sale signage.

“Flyers are expensive. Creating the codes is free,” she says. “It is allowing us to get more information to the consumer faster, and that makes you the winner. We can reach the consumer in an easier, less-expensive fashion with much more data.”

Additionally, agents can track how many times the code for a home is scanned and get contact information from the scanner, something they can’t do with flyers. But therein lies a fine line between increased marketing and aggressive sales tactics, says Amy Lessinger, broker/owner with RE/MAX Realty Affiliates.

“We can offer more information if they need it, but we don’t call those people they would have called us on the phone if they wanted to talk,” Lessinger says. “This is permission-based marketing. If they want more information we will be there, but if they don’t they won’t have us breathing down their necks.”

Lessinger says RE/MAX Realty Affiliates also began using QR codes to stay ahead of the curve. But the real work began after the office team decided to use the codes. RE/MAX Realty Affiliates had to create new signage and more than 350 unique QR codes for its inventory of properties.

Lessinger says a challenge came as the brokerage sought to link Flash-based visual tours, since that form of visual media does not work on Apple iPhones or iPads.

Smaller organizations have found the codes useful as well. Justin Boucher, owner of the My City Card Savings program, says he’s dabbled with various forms of mobile media in an effort to reach more customers, but using QR codes has provided the best results.

“For me, it is really a way to engage customers right at the first moment of contact,” Boucher says. “With my business, a lot of it is based online, and I already have lots of mobile-device integration involved. I am trying to track more people that have smart phones, and I have tried others methods, but this is a lot more effective than any other signage I have used so far.”

When users scan the My City QR Code, they are directed to a special page on Boucher’s Web site, which allows him to track unique visitors to the site and establish better metrics.

The Reno South Rotary Club recently created a QR code for its Tech Opportunities 2011 forum at the Atlantis Casino. The code took users to a miniature Web site that contained program information and a registration page. About 30 people signed up online for the event, says President-Elect Tom Hegge but there was no way to determine how many of those signups were from people using the QR code, he notes.

Hegge, owner of Office Pavilion, says the codes make the most sense for businesses that target consumers, rather than companies such as Office Pavilion that target other businesses.

John Noellert, owner of FASTSIGNS on Plumb Lane, says he has seen a tremendous rise in inquiries from customers calling about QR codes. A year ago when he bought the business, Noellert says, he fielded an inquiry about QR codes in one of every 500 calls. Today that number is about one in five, he says.

“Small businesses make significant investment in advertising and signage and on the Web,” Noellert says. “The most practical use for a QR code is to leverage Web assets onto print assets. It doesn’t cost anything more to print a sign with a code on it, so you might as well leverage what you have got.”

Printing the codes poses little challenge, Noellert adds, and providing information about the codes and their many uses helps FASTSIGNS separate itself from competitors.

“People are getting more and more oriented to using mobile devices, and we definitely see it as important for our business to not only show we know how to use them and print them, but it helps differentiate us as a supplier for their signage.”

Web sites such as Kaywa, Qurify, Delivr, uQR.me and Google convert standard URLs into Quick Response codes.


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