If you’re a marketer or have paid any attention to digital trends over the past few years you’ve most likely heard of QR codes and maybe even used them. For the benefit of those who haven’t: A QR code – short for Quick Response code is essentially a square barcode that can be scanned and read by anyone with a smartphone with a camera and compatible app. The QR code can then direct your mobile device to a website link, video, image or file, check you in on Facebook, enter you in a competition, add items to a shopping cart and more!
QR codes have been used in mainstream marketing for a number of years now but haven’t ever really taken off like some may have predicted. It’s not really the poor QR codes fault, the technology works but the application of them is generally poor.
Here’s a few things to consider before using a QR code:
1. Does it make it easier to access the information?
The main issue with QR codes is that they’re mainly used to direct customers to a website when it’s far quicker and easier to just type the url into your web browser or search the company than download an app (or open it if you’ve previously downloaded) and then scan the code.
2. Is it easy to scan?
A giant QR code on a billboard might seem like a good idea (or not) but how are people meant to scan it as they’re driving by? Just simply take your eyes off the road, download or open the app, stick your arm out your window with your phone out your car window, attempt line up the code from 100m away while moving and scan it all the while trying to avoid crashing your car and hopefully you’ve done this before you’ve driven past the billboard.
The same goes for on moving objects like the outside of buses or trains. Do you really want your customers to get run over? And to a similar extent TV commercials. By the time you’ve opened the app the ad is over, it’s a great way to frustrate your customers.
3. Can they view the content?
While a QR code in a magazine sounds like a much better idea then the above options, you must think about where the magazine is in circulation. If it’s an inflight magazine then how can the viewer see the content it directs them to when they have no access to internet? Some flights do now have wifi onboard but currently this is not readily available on commercial flights. Yes, people can take the magazine with them, sure I’ll just add that to my pile of inflight magazines sitting on my coffee table (correct me if I’m wrong but who actually does that?). The question of content also applies in places where there is no mobile reception such as subway stations.
4. Is there a better alternative?
The problem with technology trends is everyone wants to get on board, just to be seen to be cool and trendy. You must think before putting a QR code on any advertising medium, is there an alternative that. Among the most ridiculous examples of this are QR codes in emails. Firstly many people read their emails on their phone now. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to scan a QR code with your phone if the QR code is on your phone!? I know many people receive emails on their computer so they could scan the code with the phone off the screen right? Right, but why not just put the link in the email so they can simply just click it instead!?
5. Do people know why they should scan it?
Tell people what the QR code is directing them to or what it’s for. Is it going to direct them to like your facebook page, open a video, download a coupon to redeem. Let them know why they should scan and where it’s taken them. It’s also good practice to include another option other than scanning.
6. Is it worth scanning?
Give people a reason and a benefit to scan. Is it worth them downloading an app or getting out their phone to scan it? If it’s simply just your website url then the answer is no, probably not.
7. Have you checked the link?
Make sure it’s not a broken link and works on all mobile devices including android and iphone. Other things to consider… Are you directing your customers to a mobile friendly website? Does the link work?
So the next time you’re thinking about slapping on a QR code on something just think about it.
It’s not all bad news for QR codes, here’s some examples of QR codes that redeem their not so well thought out counterparts:
I believe one of the best and most successful uses of QR codes was Mastercards Priceless campaign using QR codes onYankee stadium seats placed around New York.
QR codes used to make life easier in Taiwan:
New York Central Park “World Park” turned the park into an outdoor mobile museum.
A clever use of QR codes to animate a static print add instead of just linking a video
So what’s next? A number of companys have come up with alternatives, notably touchcode which requires an additional invisible layer to be printed on to the material. According to the creators it’s both cost effective and easy to implement. Once the additional layer has been printed on the item users can simply touch their phone to it and access the information.This does away with having to line up the code and scan but does require additional process unlike QR codes.
Whether this will become a viable replacement to QR codes remains to be seen. One thing is for sure there will always be new technology and as a good marketer your job is to decide whether there is a good reason to use it.
By Daniel Martinovich
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