QR codes forge customer loyalty and encourage customers to read reviews, a chance for the company to offer free stuff and coupons!

By Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa (Founder & Creative Director, PixInk)

Online shopping appears to be a thing of the past — now it is all about mobile. This holiday season, the National Retail Federation expects 53% of shoppers who own smartphones and 64% of those who own tablets plan to use their devices to research and purchase holiday gifts. MarketLive found that 16% of people in a survey would do most or all of their holiday shopping on smartphones or tablets, up 3% from last year.

Having a mobile version of your brand’s website is a good step, but brands looking to really engage with the mobile generation are turning to QR codes. These codes let shoppers scan the code and pull up information the product including reviews, the opportunity to purchase along with comparison prices. In a world where a better deal is right at your fingertips, QR codes can make or break sales — especially during the holiday boom.

Companies can use QR codes in more ways than one. Here are a few reasons why today’s top brands are turning to these mobile solutions — and why more brands will likely do the same.

1. Retain customers: QR codes forge customer loyalty.

QR codes give consumers more information, but in providing them a retailer can also encourage customers not to look elsewhere for the products they need. Target is making it easier to find merchandise in other sizes and other products in the event that they are not available at your local store.

Simply scan the code to find out where you can find additional inventory. This encourages the customer to purchase the item with Target, even though it may not be in the store. In fact, many retailers say QR codes provide them with the chance to not only engage consumers, but cultivate loyalty.

2. Go beyond in-store scanning: Virtual stores use QR codes.

In addition to loyalty, retailers are using QR codes to reach consumers that never set foot in a store. Wal-mart is using QR codes to operate its virtual pop-up toy store located in Toronto’s PATH underground walkway.

Shoppers simply find the item they want, and then scan it to purchase the toy. It is a different blend that enables people to use technology without having to participate in traditional online shopping.

3. Get information: QR apps encourage customers to browse reviews.

Toys R Us is using its own mobile app this season to give shoppers more information.

While the whole concept of using QR codes is to provide more details, this retailer has launched its very own mobile app that lets users go beyond finding a product or reading reviews. It includes video content and lets customers purchase goods online.

4. Find freebies: Brands lure consumers with QR codes and offer free stuff.

The Gap got a little creative with QR codes for the holiday season. The retailer launched a holiday postcard promotion on Facebook and an application powered by startup Sincerely. It allows fans to send Facebook photos as printed postcards to up to two friends in their social networks, which would otherwise cost $0.99 each. Users can also visit a custom-branded Facebook page where they can get more goodies.

Brands such as the Gap can add their logo, coupons, hashtags, and QR codes to the postcards — the Gap features a QR code on the final printed product.

Tis the season for QR codes!

Retailers will likely continue to utilize QR codes to enhance a customer’s shopping experience and retain customers. Prepare to see more of them as you shop this year, not only in magazines but on store displays and in print advertisements. Then start scanning for information that’s sure to make holiday shopping that much easier.

Women 2.0 readers: How can we change the ratio of women creative directors faster? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa is Founder and Creative Director of PixInk, a San Francisco-based digital design microagency serving a macro niche: businesses marketing to women, who drive over 80% of purchase decisions. She nurtures emerging brands and strengthens iconic ones through powerful design, insight and a deep understanding of the female consumer. PixInk’s microagency structure works extremely well for Apple and Facebook, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @ayeshamathews.