I was recently asked by one of my clients at Sharpe Design Solutions to include a QR Code on a promotional poster. My first thought was "why bother?". But what I said was "how about we give it some thought?"... Even though my opinion is that QR Codes are a waste of time, I thought it only fair to give the matter due diligence!
For those of you who don't know what a QR Code is; A Quick Response Code is a mobile phone readable bar code that can store website URL's, plain text, phone numbers, email addresses and pretty much any other alphanumeric data. Think "print-based hypertext links" and you'll get the idea. But if there was ever a technology so unpopular despite having real potential to improve the way consumers and businesses interact, it would be the QR code.
I see the greatest hurdle for the QR code is the lack of industry standards. For example, iPhones ship with Google Maps, built-in utilities, Safari web browser, a weather app, etc. But what is not included on any platform (Android, iPhone or Windows) is a built-in QR code scanner. For that matter, there is not one go-to scanner in any respective app store, either. So not only do users have to choose an app from a vast variety on offer, they then have to teach themselves how to use it. Most people are savvy enough, but for some it is all just too much hard work!
The other factor that determines a QR code’s success is what its practical use will be.
Consumers who have taken the time to download a QR Code scanner app may well be very disappointed if there’s no significant reward at the end of their effort. While many marketers love the idea of using QR codes for brand promotion, the QR codes that perform far better are the ones that offer consumers a benefit for scanning. This means providing a discount or special offer or inclusion in an exclusive program in order to provide customers a return on investment for their time.
At the end of the day, a QR code is just a shortcut link to providing more information. Instead of focusing on the tool, marketers need to focus on the value and quality of the content at the back end to give a truly rich user experience. Maybe then the QR code will reach its full potential? Or maybe not? This might just be one of those times when all I can say is “let’s wait and see”. Stay tuned!
Jody Sharpe has over 20 years experience in marketing & branding and is passionate about helping local small businesses grow.