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In the competitive landscape of retail, QR codes on product packaging have become a practical tool for connecting consumers with digital content. These codes must be designed and placed thoughtfully to be effective. A sharp, well-contrasted QR code can mean the difference between a customer engaging with your brand or passing by. Placement is equally crucial; it must be easily scannable and visible to the consumer. Moreover, the call to action associated with the QR code needs to be clear and enticing to prompt the customer to take out their phone and scan.

This integration of QR codes is not just a trend; it's a strategic approach to marketing and customer engagement. By optimizing the design, placement, and messaging, businesses can leverage QR codes to add value to the customer experience and provide additional product information without cluttering the packaging.

As we explore the best practices for QR codes on consumer product packaging, we'll focus on the essentials: design quality, strategic placement, and effective calls to action. These elements are key to unlocking the full potential of QR codes in a retail setting.

Best Practices in Visual/Design/Quality Aspects of QR Codes

When it comes to QR codes, the devil is in the details. A well-executed design can enhance user interaction, while a poorly crafted one can deter it. Here are the best practices to ensure your QR codes are visually appealing and of high quality:

Clarity is Key

A QR code's effectiveness is rooted in its clarity. To ensure a seamless scan, the code must be high-resolution and free from blurriness. This means opting for vector formats over raster when creating your QR codes, as they maintain quality across various sizes and mediums. Additionally, avoid clutter around the QR code. A sufficient 'quiet zone' is essential to prevent scanning issues, ensuring that the code stands out without competing elements.


While already a bit older (2011), CocaCola's QR code is high-contrast, its size invites scanning, and customer benefits are clearly explained


Contrast and Color Considerations

Contrast is crucial for QR code readability. The traditional black-on-white approach is a standard for a reason—it works. However, if brand aesthetics call for colour, ensure there is sufficient contrast between the code and its background. Dark codes on light backgrounds are the rule of thumb. Remember, the goal is to make the code pop, not to blend in.


Katjes creatively turned the QR code into a heart and aligned its colour with the rest of the packaging; while well-intentioned, blending in the QR code that much might potentially decrease scan rates


Incorporating Brand Elements

While functionality is paramount, incorporating brand elements into the QR code can enhance brand recognition. This could be as subtle as using brand colours or as direct as embedding a logo within the code. However, any branding should not compromise the code's scannability. It's a delicate balance between maintaining brand identity and ensuring the QR code's functionality.

Sizing for Success

Size matters when it comes to QR codes. A code too small may be overlooked or unscannable, while one too large may dominate the packaging unnecessarily. The ideal size should be proportionate to the packaging, ensuring it's easily scannable from a comfortable distance. It's also important to test the QR code across various devices and scanning apps to ensure it can be read universally, regardless of the user's preferred technology.

Best Practices in Placement and Accessibility of QR Codes

The strategic placement of a QR code on product packaging is as important as its design. A QR code in the right location invites interaction; one that's misplaced may as well be invisible. Here's how to ensure your QR codes are optimally positioned for maximum accessibility:

Strategic Placement on Packaging

The ideal spot for a QR code is where it naturally catches the eye without interrupting the flow of the packaging design. It should be positioned on a flat surface to avoid warping the code's shape, which can hinder scanning. Common placements include the front-facing side of the package or alongside product information on the back.


Nevernot's hygiene products are not self-explanatory; the bold and central placement of the QR code on the latch not only encourages first-time customers to find out more, but also reminds customers to scan with every use/opening after purchase


Environmental and Material Considerations

Consider the environment in which the product will be displayed. A QR code placed too low on packaging that sits on a high shelf may be out of sight and reach. Additionally, the material of the packaging should not interfere with the code's scannability—matte finishes are preferable to glossy ones that can reflect light and obscure the code.

Accommodating Multiple Languages

For products that reach a global market, QR codes can be a gateway to multilingual content. By directing users to a landing page that detects the user's location or language settings, businesses can provide a more personalized experience, offering content in the user's native language.

Ensuring Rapid Load Speeds

In the context of a supermarket, where internet connections can be notoriously unreliable, the speed at which your QR code's linked content loads is critical. Slow page load speeds can lead to customer frustration, decreased engagement, and potentially lost sales. It's essential to optimize the linked page for quick loading, even on slower mobile connections, to avoid these negative outcomes.

Best Practices in Calls to Action (CTAs) to Encourage Scanning

A QR code is only as effective as the call to action (CTA) that accompanies it. The right CTA can convert curiosity into action, prompting customers to scan and engage. Here’s how to ensure your CTAs are compelling and effective:

Crafting a Compelling CTA

The CTA should be direct and informative, clearly stating what customers will gain from scanning the QR code. Whether it’s for accessing exclusive content, unlocking a discount, or viewing a product demonstration, the message should be succinct and enticing. Use phrases like "Scan for More," "Discover," or "Unlock Your Offer" to prompt immediate action.

VendSwift and CocaCola QR code call to action

VendSwift's CTA is clear about the process and expected benefits 


Visual Cues for CTAs

Visual elements should guide customers to the QR code, using design strategies like arrows or button-like graphics to draw attention. The CTA should be visually distinct, employing bold text or standout colors to differentiate it from the packaging design.

Incentivizing the Scan

Offering an incentive can greatly increase scanning rates. Whether it’s a promotional offer, entry into a contest, or access to exclusive information, the incentive should resonate with the target audience’s interests. Aligning the incentive with what is most appealing to your customers can significantly boost interaction with the QR code.

Encouraging Customer Feedback

QR codes can also serve as a direct line to the consumer, offering a unique opportunity for brands to gather feedback. By linking to a simple survey or feedback form, companies can encourage consumers to share their experiences, providing valuable insights that can drive product improvement and innovation.

Legal Considerations When Using QR Codes

Communicating Green Claims

Sustainability is more than a buzzword; it's a commitment that resonates with today's consumers. Use QR codes to make "green claims" about your product, providing customers with a pathway to further information, evidence, and third-party verifications. The CTA should clearly indicate that by scanning, customers can explore the sustainable practices and credentials behind the product, reinforcing transparency and trust.

Ensuring Legal Compliance

It’s crucial to ensure that the use of QR codes adheres to advertising standards and packaging regulations. We wrote a dedicated blog post about this topic – which product information can go behind a QR code. This not only safeguards the brand legally but also assures customers of the product's integrity. The CTA should reflect a responsible representation of the product, maintaining legal and ethical standards.

The Future of QR Codes

In the fast-paced retail environment, QR codes on product packaging are more than just a trend; they're a strategic tool for enhancing customer engagement and providing valuable content. By focusing on the design, placement, and calls to action associated with QR codes, businesses can create a seamless bridge between their physical products and the digital world.

As we move forward in an increasingly digital marketplace, the importance of QR codes cannot be overstated. They are the keys to unlocking a wealth of information and opportunities for engagement that today's consumers expect and appreciate. By adhering to these best practices, businesses can ensure that their QR codes are not just scanned, but that they also enhance the consumer experience in meaningful ways.