/To QR or not to QR; is that a question? 

To QR or not to QR; is that a question? 

By Emily Stonehouse

Most of us likely remember a chapter before quick response (QR) codes became a thing of normalcy. We used to be able to go into restaurants and open up a paper version of a menu, right after we selected if we wanted smoking or non-smoking. The menu would sometimes have scribbles and scratches on it; indicating changes in food availability and drink differences. But that was the way life was back then. 

QR codes have been around since the mid 1990s, but didn’t start really picking up steam until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “It really blew up during covid,” said Thom Lambert, who focuses on marketing and tourism for the County of Haliburton. “They became popular with the no touch policies around the pandemic. And then when people realized how cost effective they were, they stuck around.”

The small black and white barcode can be utilized by snapping a picture on any smartphone, which takes the visitor directly to the desired destination on the world wide web. This gives businesses and organizations the ability to direct traffic towards any URL they want to share; whether that be a digital menu, a map, a link to event tickets, or an informational page online. The options are endless. 

The County of Haliburton has been using QR codes on the majority of their print advertising for the past few years. Lambert referred to the Hike Haliburton maps that at one time flew off the shelves. “We know that people still love print materials,” he said. “But we were noticing that much of the map wasn’t relevant after the festival, and it would be out of date.” 

Enter: QR codes. A few years ago, the county introduced the concept of the “evergreen map”, which allowed Lambert and his team to continuously change the relevancy of the map, and keep it fresh via access through a QR code that anyone could use. 

Not only did this keep the map alive, it also allowed the county tourism team to track who was looking at it, which is a valuable tool to utilize when strategically planning upcoming marketing initiatives. 

We noticed that the majority of click throughs came from outside the county,” said Lambert, “which is great news for us.”

Lambert shared that often, stakeholders do not have access to where visitors are finding their website. This could make marketing difficult when they do not know where to run their ads or put their energy into. But if they can see that folks are accessing their site via a specific QR code, it allows them to invest more time and money into exploring that particular avenue. 

QR codes are not just for the tech savvy anymore, either. Anyone can make their own QR code by visiting any QR generator, and entering the URL they desire folks to visit. They can also be tweaked and changed based on updates and relevancy. No more chicken scratch on menus when an item is out of stock, now it’s just a few clicks and everything can be updated; saving stakeholders time, money, and energy. 

Lambert noted that use of QR codes is quite high amongst seniors, which he believes is due to the fact that the margin of error is lower when snapping a picture of a code, versus typing in a lengthy website name. 

He also believes that all businesses – not just tourism – could benefit from utilizing the QR tool. With this in mind, he hopes to offer some workshops on how to embrace the QR life over the next few weeks at HCDC’s The Link. “We will cover basic digital stuff, and it will be pretty hands-on, with anyone who wants to learn,” he said. 

If you are interested in learning more about QR codes and how to use them within your business, contact Lambert at tlambert@haliburtoncounty.ca.