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GUEST COMMENT Turning physical traffic into contacts with WhatsApp QR Codes

WhatsApp QR codes in action (Image: tyntec)

With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp is easily the biggest messaging app globally, handily surpassing rivals like Viber and Line. It’s high time retailers leveraged WhatsApps’s full potential and invited as many customers as possible to chat with them on WhatsApp.

Unlike other platforms, WhatsApp doesn’t have usernames. More accurately, your phone number is your username. If your customer has your digits, the conversation can start flowing. But that’s not exactly elegant.

Fortunately, there’s a better way: QR codes. A type of barcode that’s ideal for representing text – like web links and phone numbers, QR codes are scanned by customers with their camera instead of manually transcribing a phone number or link. 

QR codes evolved to suit customer needs

QR codes have enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past few years. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of QR scans grew by 26%. They’re also more mainstream than they’ve ever been, reaching 28% more people during the same period.

There’s a reason for this: QR codes are now easier to use than they’ve ever been.  Not so long ago, if you wanted to scan a QR code, you had to download a separate app. Most people didn’t bother.

Then, in 2017, Apple added native QR Code support to iOS, embedding it within the camera app. Google swiftly followed, baking it into the Android camera software with the launch of Android 9 Pie the following year.

And this is great for retailers. QR codes have a distinct advantage, insofar as they work equally well in the virtual realm as they do in the real world.

Retailers aren’t limited to placing them only on the website. If they have a physical presence, they can print them out and stick them up, allowing customers to convert physical foot-traffic into long-term contacts. Retailers can put them on receipts or packaging, pushing their communications channels beyond what they previously thought possible.

QR codes work exceptionally well for initiating WhatsApp conversations for sales and customer service. One handy feature is pre-filled messages. WhatsApp makes it easier to get conversations started by allowing retailers to embed pre-filled messages within their WhatsApp QR codes. They could even choose to place custom WhatsApp QR codes across their physical locations, each with a different pre-filled message.

WhatsApp QR code – a three-step guide

Making your own WhatsApp QR codes is easy. Retailers can either use a generic QR code generator or the native QR code generator for the WhatsApp Business API.

Step 1: If you’re using a generic QR code generator, first, you need to get your link. This follows a set format: Remember to remove any zeroes, plus-signs, or dashes.

Step 2: You’ll also need to put your number in the international format, with the country code at the front (+1 for the US and Canada, +44 for the UK, +49 for Germany, and so on).

Step 3: Want to add a message? That’s easy too. After the number, insert your message like this: “?text=”. Don’t forget to replace spaces with a plus sign. So, “I am at your London store” would look like this: “I+am+at+your+London+store.”

All combined, you should have something like this:

It’s worth noting that you’ll need to re-create your QR code if you decide to change the message.

Out of the box QR code solutions

The alternative for retailers  is using a native QR code generator. If they’re using the WhatsApp Business API with a third-party supplier like tyntec, things are much more comfortable. They do much of the heavy lifting, including creating the QR codes.

Another advantage here is if they decide to change the embedded message, they don’t have to re-create the code and reproduce all materials using the code (packages, store signage, etc.). The supplier will update the message without having to change the QR code itself.

Blending online and in-store

WhatsApp isn’t just for online shoppers. It’s also a connection between on- and offline experiences.

QR codes are the way to make that happen. They’re comfortable, and they’re everywhere. Best of all, they work across physical and online presences and will help retailers engage with that hard-to-reach foot traffic.


Jean Shin is Director Strategy and Content, tyntec

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