How to use SMS QR Codes

How to use SMS QR Codes

Developed in 1994 by Denso Wave, a Japanese company, Quick Response (QR) codes helped track vehicles during the manufacturing process.

These square and pixelated images are unique and easy to recognise, and they had their first spike in commercial popularity around the early 2010s.

But it was too early for its time. Back then, not everyone owned a smartphone. For those that did, mobile data connections were slow and websites weren’t mobile-friendly. Some smartphones didn’t have a native QR code scanning app, which meant they had to find a third party version on their app store.

Are QR codes still relevant in 2021?

According to a Statista Survey conducted in September 2020, 32% of participants scanned a QR code in the past week.

QR codes have seen an increase in use since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions —for example, restaurants have been seen using them to let customers check-in to assist with contact tracing and for digital menus.

With a Bitcoin and cryptocurrency boom, people have also created QR codes to make it easier for customers to pay with their cryptocurrency of choice.

How do SMS QR Codes work?

SMS QR codes have two parts: the ‘To number’ field at the top and the ‘chat message’ field at the bottom.

You can fill out one of the fields or both, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. See below for examples. Scan the SMS QR codes with your smartphone to see how they work.

All your customers need to do is scan your SMS QR code with their native camera app on their smartphone, and the rest is automatically taken care of.

QR Code Example Result Great for:

This is an SMS QR code that has a ‘To number’ and no ‘chat message’. This allows your customers to manually type in a message.

  • SMS Customer Support
  • Product and Service Feedback
This one has both a ‘To number’ and a chat message.
  • SMS Keyword competitions
  • Auto-respond opt-in forms
  • Queue/line-up management
This SMS QR code doesn’t have a ‘To number’ but does have a ‘chat message’. Your customers need to manually type in a mobile number or select a contact.
  • Referrals
  • Sharing messages with friends and family

SMS QR Codes 101

Dedicated virtual mobile numbers

To make SMS QR Codes work for you, you need a dedicated virtual mobile number, which you can lease from our web SMS platform.

Having one is better for branding and consistency, and it can also help you create better customer experiences with SMS customer support, keywords competitions, and much more.

Pro Tip: once you create an SMS QR Code, you can’t change the contents of it. That’s why it’s important to have a dedicated number.

The minimum size of a QR code

SMS QR codes can be as small or as large as you fancy, but do not forget about the user experience. People have short attention spans, so making it tricky to scan will not yield good results.

Pro Tip: The minimum size recommendation for SMS QR codes is 2 x 2 cm. If you make them any smaller, then smartphones will have difficulty scanning them.

SMS Character Limit

One text message is 160 characters but you can send up to 612 characters as four concatenated text messages per send.

For your SMS QR code, we recommend that you keep the text copy under 160 characters if possible, to keep things short and sweet. Businesses typically use SMS QR codes for SMS keyword campaigns that are only a few characters long.

Why use an SMS QR Code

Ubiquitous and simple

Your customers will find them easy to use. All they need to do is scan your SMS QR code with their native camera app on their smartphone, and their messaging app will automatically open up with a pre-populated number and chat message, as we showed above. This doesn’t replace “Text WIN to 123456789 to enter the competition” type call-to-actions, but is a complement to it.

Free and easy to make

SMS QR codes look complicated but can be made in a few minutes with free code creators without any coding knowledge.

Works without WiFi or mobile data connection

SMS is a ubiquitous technology that doesn’t require WiFi or mobile data to function. Someone without it can still send text messages using their mobile network.


Most SMS QR Code generators enable you to download the QR code as a JPG or PNG image file, or SVG vector file.

SVG vector files give you more flexibility. Vector files allow you to change the size of your code and repurpose them for print, web, and digital without the loss of quality.

Logos, colours, and branding

Some SMS QR code creators also let you add your logo, improving brand exposure. It also builds trust, which will make customers more willing to scan them.

You can also spice them up with your brand colours. Keep in mind that there should be a contrast between the code and the background to ensure scannability.

How to create your own SMS QR Code

There are plenty of free SMS QR code creators available online. Some require you to create an account.

To create one, make sure that you select the SMS tab in the generator. Then, like the table above, enter either the target phone number (‘To’ field) and/or pre-populate the chat message to make it easy for your customers to send the message with minimal manual editing.

Pro Tip: If you change your dedicated virtual mobile number, you will need to create new SMS QR codes and immediately remove the old ones to avoid confusion.

Measure twice, cut once

When you create your QR code, it’s yours forever. No one can change the contents of it, even you. Make sure that the contents are correct. Your generator may allow you to experiment customising the colours of and add a logo to your QR code.

Generate the QR Code, and then scan it with your smartphone camera app to test if it works. If everything looks good, download your SMS QR code and add it to your marketing collateral.

Pro Tip: If you’re applying your code to any print collateral or merchandise, be sure to get a product sample to test the QR code first. The true printed size and the material it will be printed on affects scannability. Large print proofs can be tested by your printer in their print factory for you.

SMS QR Code Use Cases

Queue Management

Retailers, such as Uniqlo, use in-store signage to encourage customers to scan a QR Code or text a number to save their spot. When it is almost their turn, Uniqlo notifies them with a text message.

Other businesses like restaurants, amusement parks, and festivals may find this feature in allowing customers to sign up and roam around before returning when it’s almost their turn help elevate the customer experience.

Lead Generation

Most SMS opt-in campaigns require customers to open their messaging app before typing in the virtual mobile number and SMS keyword. SMS QR codes can help save them time and prevent spelling mistakes by reducing the process to two easy steps.

Use SMS QR codes for:

  • SMS keyword campaigns (i.e. competitions, donations, and coupon offers)
  • House For Sale signs, which pre-populate a real estate agent’s mobile number and the property details for immediate context
  • Email collection by directing customers to an online form where they can fill in their information and check a box to receive SMS in the future

Customer service and feedback

Make your customers happier by adding one of their most preferred channels, SMS, to your customer support offerings.

SMS QR codes can give your customers the convenience to ask quick questions without having the fuss of turning on a computer or dialling in. Add a QR code to your business card, in-store signage, receipt, and product packaging, that says, “Scan this to get in touch with our team.” This can pre-fill the text with your dedicated virtual number and a chat message that requests assistance.

If you’re not already a Burst SMS customer, give our online SMS service a try with our 14-day trial. No obligations and no credit card required.