Thanks to the phenomenal growth of the iPhone and BlackBerry, and their growing menu of apps, more and more consumers are using their smartphones to interact with the Web. How will future marketers reach these consumers through their mobile devices? Enter the QR code.

A QR code ("Quick Response") a type of barcode that can be "read" by camera-equipped smartphones (the process is a bit like the checkout process in scanning UPC codes at your local supermarket).

Editor’s note: Meet Joseph Ferrara at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7, 2009. He will be available to meet with conference attendees from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 6, in the Palace Hotel’s Ralston Room. Click here to send Joseph a message.

Thanks to the phenomenal growth of the iPhone and BlackBerry, and their growing menu of apps, more and more consumers are using their smartphones to interact with the Web. How will future marketers reach these consumers through their mobile devices? Enter the QR code.

A QR code ("Quick Response") a type of barcode that can be "read" by camera-equipped smartphones (the process is a bit like the checkout process in scanning UPC codes at your local supermarket).

Imaging a QR code or a similar code with a mobile device allows the devices to access Web pages, get real-time information, and even transact business while standing at a bus stop, reading a magazine ad or driving by a real estate "For Sale" sign. This form of data-delivery is referred to as "mobile tagging."

These mobile-readable codes, when placed on real estate signs, could prove useful in guiding real estate shoppers to online content with more details about homes.

Folks can do a drive-by shooting (with their camera) and be instantly linked to a Web page with a video or virtual tour of the home, extensive listing details, photos, neighborhood information, driving directions, and the listing agent’s contact information, for example.

And because they are using their phone, they can easily call the agent to schedule an appointment. The QR code can also be set up to send a text message to the agent.

You will also see QR codes on:

Magazine ads and other print ads. The codes just might keep print alive. Imagine sitting in the dentist’s office — no, not the dentist — sitting at the spa waiting for a massage (ah, much better) and you’re glancing through a big glossy spread when you spy the perfect vacation home. Just whip out your phone, snap a picture, and be whisked away to view rich online content.

Mailings. Your postcard will stand out from the crowd with a QR code linking to a home video.

Subway and bus ads. Instead of staring at a static ad, riders can engage the ad.

Bus stop posters and benches. Folks waiting for their ride can miss their bus as they concentrate on your Web site.

Billboards and other outdoor ads. QR codes that even Godzilla can read.

Business cards. Be the first Realtor in the neighborhood to have one and get the quizzical yet envious stares. If you load it with your contact info, the QR scan will get it into the phone — which is where you want it.

Stickers, street stencils and T-shirts. Guerrilla marketers love this stuff.

Property listing sheets. Stick these to the window of your real estate office to allow home shoppers to see beyond the print on the page.

Listing brochures and fliers. Heck, they will be everywhere.

QR codes are better than URLs for several reasons: …CONTINUED

  • It’s much easier to take a picture or scan a QR code than type a website URL, especially for folks with FTS (fat thumb syndrome).
  • It’s faster. There can be no URL typos to screw things up and the QR code can link to an interior page, which might have a cumbersome URL.
  • The buzz factor: early adopters will get extensive mainstream and social media coverage. It will naturally arouse curiosity and consumer interest. And professionals using them will be seen as part of the techno avant-garde. Imagine a listing presentation where you demonstrate a QR code for a prospective client? Oh my.

While QR codes have been in used extensively in Japan and 35 other countries, they have not gotten more than a foothold in the United States. That’s about to end. (I’ve been writing about QR codes for a few years, so it better.) The new generation of cell phones in the U.S. are coming equipped with QR code readers.

The City of Manor, Texas, was recently honored for its creative use of QR codes. Manor’s SmartCode project placed "SmartTour" QR codes around the city: on historical markers, old buildings, city hall, parks, city vehicles, business cards and other places of interest.

A scan of a city vehicle ("SmartTruck") QR code directs you to a Web page showing the truck’s routes. "SmartPark" QR codes on park fences provide rental information if you wish to rent the park for an event.

Here are a few examples of QR-type codes being used in real estate marketing:

Creating a QR code is easy. Just visit any of the many QR code generating websites on the internet, such as: http://buzz.qreatebuzz.com/.

This image (left) is a QR code I created that links to my blog. If you have a smartphone with a QR code reader, test it.

Want to really get creative? Hire a designer to create a custom QR code, like Louis Vitton did.

Go out and mention QR codes to your colleagues and watch their confused expressions.

Maybe next time we’ll talk about the world beyond QR codes, a place called MARS (mobile augmented reality systems), where you need only point your cell phone camera at a building and get all the information about it.

Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.

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