Mobile Web Analytics: Tracking Campaign Results with 2D Barcodes

4 minute read
Greg Dowling avatar

The use of 2D barcodes, also known as QR Codes, is becoming a common method for marketing on mobile phones. But how do they work and are they really proving useful to marketers?

Recently, a colleague of mine Allison Hartsoe asked if I had any information related to tracking the performance of QR Codes, and I figured that this would be a good opportunity to build upon some campaign and social media tracking tips provided by June Dershewitz. June provided some great tips on tracking social media links as campaigns as well as URL shorteners with analytics that dovetail nicely with tracking the performance of QR Codes.

But first a little background.

Introducing 2D Barcodes / QR Codes

Mobile barcodes can take on many different shapes, sizes and colors owning to the limiting factors holding this technology back. QR Codes  (Quick Response Codes) are rapidly becoming the de-facto standard, but there are many proprietary solutions and several competing standards which has made adoption somewhat slow, especially in the US.

Wikipedia details several of these formats:


Image: Mobile Barcodes 

Essentially, QR Codes:

  • Refer to the use of 2D barcode images read via a mobile phone for quick access to stored content
  • Utilize a reader application to scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in the phone’s browser
  • Include limiting factors such as interoperability, proprietary barcode technologies and a lack of standards

QR Code Reader Apps

Thanks to our friends at PercentMobile, you can get a QR code reader for your phone by visiting http://percentmobile.com/getqr on your mobile device. Or to see a listing by device, visit http://analytics.percentmobile.com/device_qr_code_readers/.

My favorite reader application currently is QuickMark. It can handle many different mobile barcode formats and is super fast at isolating and reading the barcode image.

QR Code Tracking

Tracking QR codes falls into two categories:

1. Fully Contained Systems

Utilizing a mobile barcode generation service, you can generate and deploy a mobile barcode and then report on performance within the vendors proprietary system. A short list of vendors include:

2. Manual or Redirect Based

By creating your mobile barcode manually and using standard campaign tracking, you can effectively track the performance of your mobile barcode campaigns by leveraging your existing Web analytics vendor.

First create your mobile barcode using any number of the available free tools:

Learning Opportunities

If you are linking directly to a page within your site that already has tracking on it, you can simply append a campaign code to the URL you are using as the target for your mobile barcode.

If you are linking to content NOT on your own web site you will need to route through a 301 redirect page with your analytics tracking code embedded on the redirect page. Check with your analytics vendor and see if they have a preferred method for redirects.

Then there is the Easy way...

PercentMobile is offering QR Code Tracking for Everyone, currently available by request.


bit.ly and goo.gl allow for QR creation and tracking of shortened URLs created on their system. By adding .qr to the end of any shortened link you are taken to a QR code for that link. Simply copy the image and you are good to go!

You can leverage each tools respective tracking system for analytics -- but this will only provide basic metrics such as clicks, referrers and location. However, if you follow the above suggestions with respect to tracking your social media campaigns and are sure to embed a campaign code within your shortened URLs, you will have visibility into post click behaviors and conversions.

As an example, I've included the QR Code for this post as trafficked through bit.ly with Google Analytics campaign codes. Fire up your QR Code reader and snap the image below to check out the resulting URL.


Please leave any comments below as I would love to hear how you are leveraging QR Codes in your marketing efforts, if you are tracking them and how they are performing.

About the author

Greg Dowling

Greg Dowling is Vice President of Mobile Strategy and Measurement at Web Analytics consutling firm Semphonic. Dowling is an expert in mobile measurement and enterprise analytics with over 15 years of professional experience in Web site technology and operations.