Are QR codes dead, or are they making a comeback? This week, Amazon announced that they are introducing their own version of a QR code, called a “smile code” which can be scanned using the Amazon app to unlock discounts and specials. As an Amazon user, I’m intrigued, and I’m also curious whether this concept will get traction. The allure of unlocking a discount when I see one of these codes has a strange “Where’s Waldo” kind of quality that appeals to my inner adventurer and shopper. Who doesn’t love a deal? And I do have the Amazon app always handy to shop, or to scan a code.
A similar usage of the dreaded QR code was being implemented at stores like Best Buy to get in depth product information as a consumer walked down the aisle. I’ve personally attempted to use these, but found them to be cumbersome and they rarely yield the information that I seek. But to use the code, I had to navigate to find a QR reader app, use that app (which sometimes didn’t work) and the combination of time and steps involved proved a deterreant to my using them.
Then, you have the strange attempts by “creative” marketers, like the example in the photo above that I encountered while dining at a local establishment. Nice attempt, poorly thought through. Can you think of 3 reasons that it wouldn’t work? I can come up with at least a dozen!
But maybe, with technology catching up, the cumbersome QR code may make a comeback? After all, Snapchat users seem to love the integrated “snapcode” that enables the user to gain information or participate in a web experience. Is this due to the improvement in technology or user familiarity with the app, or maybe due to the reader being integrated into the app? A far different experience than expecting a pedestrian in New York City to whip out their phone, navigate to a Scanning app, and capture the QR code from the side of a bus before the bus turns the corner.
QR codes or quick response codes were hailed as a convenient way to encourage conversions with branded trade show giveaways, collateral or direct mail. QR codes became quite popular with marketers in Japan and Europe, and gained some traction within the US. Marketers felt that many mobile users would appreciate an easy, convenient way to get information and they hoped it would drive traffic to a website. Realtors utilized these qr codes on literature or signs for home buyers to have easy access to information about a property.
But did they work? Did they attract the bordes of the curious willing to whip out their mobile device, navigate to an app, then scan and enjoy?
Motivation and Effort
Whether on a billboard, a bus, a postcard or a business card the QR code is a method to get a lot of information into a little space. It depends upon the motivation of the viewer whether the opportunity gained by scanning is worth the effort, and also the amount of effort it takes to get to the information.
QR codes on billboards, the sides of buildings, as a tattoo, on t-shirts, on badges at trade shows, on business cards were hailed as the wave of the future. They were a virtual window to take a reader to a virtual place online. When the QR code is scanned by a smart phone (with a QR reader application) the QR code can direct the mobile user to a landing page or web site with additional information such as product information, sales information, directions, phone numbers or a host of other information that your marketing efforts can now easily get into the phones of potential customers.
But unfortunately, QRs became a bit of a joke. Why? Because no one wanted to scan them. It was simply too cumbersome, and so they faded away. It’s fascinating to see whether the combination of strong consumer motivation, coupled with ease of access and perceived value of offer will help Amazon’s program gain traction.
Originally invented by DENSO Corp., a subsidy of Toyota, in 1994 QR Codes became a worldwide accepted way of communicating. They gained acceptance and popularity with marketers across many countries as a way to provide an intriguing call to action and bring the customer or prospect to the next stage of the sales process. Then, they started fading from the landscape as marketers realized they aren’t being scanned.
How QR Codes work:
- Download a QR scanning application for your phone.
- When you see a QR code use the phone’s camera and the application to read the code.
- The application automatically opens the link, video or image.
Some popular QR scanning apps include RedLaser, i-nigma, NeoReader and Grip’d. There are applications available for most smart phones.
It’s easy to see how the ability to scan a code and go directly to a website could be useful. Real Estate agents can use the code on a sign outside of a house, which when scanned, leads to a website with more information about the property. Buses can have a QR code on the side that shares information about upcoming events in town. T-shirts can be printed with QR codes that lead to a Facebook page. Removable tattoos with the QR code on them can lead to a Paypal donation site for charitable organizations. The creative usage and ideas are limited only by imagination. The downside of QR codes (being ignored by consumers), coupled with an inability to protect a consumer by an altered code that may take the consumer to a very different experience than they expected must be addressed if QR codes are going to make a resurgence as a general marketing tool.
Want to try creating a QR Code? There are many QR code generating tools on the market. The QR reader is universal, so it doesn’t matter who generates the code.
Would you use a QR code? What information would you offer that would be compelling enough to have a consumer take action to scan your code? Or, do you think QR codes should be relegated to specific apps, like the Amazon use case?