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QR Codes 101

Smartphones are changing how people travel, allowing them to retrieve information from anywhere and at any time. Consumer mobile trends, coupled with advances in built-in technological capabilities, such as GPS, camera, compass, and accelerometer, are creating increasingly sophisticated marketing opportunities for hotels. One area that has grown exponentially within the past year is the use of quick response (QR) codes.
Though not new, QR codes are gaining in popularity as marketing tools because they allow mobile devices to process a large amount of information with a simple scan, instantly linking consumers to web pages, contact information, images, and more. According to ScanBuy (, as of the end of 2010, 30 to 40 percent of all smartphone users downloaded a barcode scanning application, and 97 percent found these mobile barcodes useful.
With that in mind, Fontainebleau Miami Beach partnered with mobile app developer MacroView Labs to build a mobile app and mobile website that allow guests to explore and interact with the hotel right from their fingertips. Users can book rooms or upgrade to a suite, check special mobile app-only discounts, reserve time at the spa, order room service from a taxi, browse menus and shopping directories, ask questions, provide real-time feedback and more. The Fontainebleau mobile app also features a built in quick response code reader that allows users to scan a QR code with their phone’s camera to access useful information.
QR codes can be embedded in a blog, or printed on flyers, business cards, cocktail napkins, key cards, property signage or a variety of other collateral. The codes provide an effective method for offering additional information without having to print that information on marketing materials. For instance, Fontainebleau includes QR codes in advertisements, which point consumers to additional details about an offer. The hotel also uses QR codes throughout the property to promote restaurants, bars and spas, directing guests to landing pages offering much more information than a rotating sign ever could.
Then, there is the element of surprise — people are genuinely interested to see where a QR code might take them. Will the QR code lead to a discount, a special website, a photo, or the beginning of a scavenger hunt?
Integrating QR codes into a mobile marketing campaign is easier than it may seem. They can be created using a variety of free QR code generators, including Kaywa, ZXing, delivr, QR Stuff and Maestro. As for how to scan the codes, the Android operating system has a built-in QR code scanner, called ZXing on many models, and the iPhone Apple iOS operating system offers several free QR code reader apps. Many Blackberry phones come with QR code readers pre-installed as well.
Determining a campaign’s effectiveness is an important part of any mobile strategy. However, QR codes do not offer built-in tracking options. There are several ways to track the number of visitors who scan a particular QR code. Hotels can either direct the QR codes to a page in their app or website, or have the QR codes pass through a or other link shortener that tracks the links.
Although QR codes aren’t a new technology, their use in the U.S. is becoming more prevalent as more users adopt smartphones that have QR code reading capabilities. With a technology that is flexible, free to generate, and fun to use, the possibilities of QR code marketing in the hospitality industry are endless.


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