More real estate agents using QR codes to share information

Monday, August 15, 2011
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Tiny black squares filled with jagged lines and dots are popping up on all sorts of products from ice cream pints to newspaper pages. These QR codes, short for "quick response," are becoming a popular way for businesses to link their customers with more information about their products.

By downloading a free QR code reader app, smartphone users can quickly scan these codes and be directed to a website for more information about the advertisement or product they're seeing.

"QR codes allow you to share a specific set of information to an audience that is clearly engaged in what you're marketing them," explained Erica Wheeler, director of brand strategy at BOLD Marketing in Cape Girardeau. "If they take the time to snap a photo of the code and upload it, then they're invested enough to care about what you're saying. You then have a captive audience to share controlled information to."

Local real estate agent Bill Cole, owner of Realty Executives of Cape County, uses Microsoft Tag, a visual mark similar to QR codes, in his advertising.

While QR codes are open source, meaning anyone can use and create them and they're compatible with most smartphones, Microsoft Tags are owned by Microsoft and work better with Microsoft programs and technologies.

"We have found the tags to be particularly beneficial in two areas. The first is in print advertising where we have a limited amount of space to provide the information a buyer needs. The second is at the property itself where we can place the tag on the for sale sign," Cole said. "In either case, a quick scan of the tag immediately sends more information, photos, even virtual tours to a cellphone."

When scanning a tag or QR code for a listed, the potential buyer will see a photo of the property, a detailed description and a map link. Most also show a photo and have contact information for the real estate agent listing the property. Some even include videos.

Microsoft Tags cannot be read by QR Code readers and require a specific Microsoft application that can also be downloaded for free at www.gettag.mobi.

Cole said he chose to use Microsoft Tag over QR codes because the Tag platform is supported by Microsoft, while no large company is championing the QR platform.

"Another advantage to the Tag is it does not require as large of a footprint to be scanned as the QR code does so it takes up less space in print advertising," Cole said.

Cole said the number of people using these tags is increasing as people learn more about the technology and more people, though he didn't have any companywide statistics but each executive can access usage information on his or her properties.

"With the rapid increase of smartphones, consumers expect information immediately. The tags are a great way to provide that information. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words," Cole said. "Our executives benefit?because they?get a better idea of the number of people looking at a property and the source, from the sign, homes guide or newspaper.?This is information that was never available before and it's important?feedback the seller?needs," Cole said.

There are some drawbacks to using Microsoft Tags and QR codes.

Not all mobile phone users have a smartphone and it can take some time and effort to get the cold to read right.

"Not all consumers are willing to take the time to make it work," Wheeler said.

It's also difficult to find printers who will guarantee that a QR code will scan and work correctly on every piece they print, she said.

The future of QR codes, and Microsoft's Tags are yet to be determined.

"At this point, the data doesn't seem to support all the news we're seeing about QR codes," Wheeler said. "From what I've seen, less than 50 percent of smartphone users have actually scanned a QR code. Personally, I have scanned maybe three codes in two years."

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