I will start out the conversation with a question. Have you ever seen a QR code used on a website or online ad and wondered why? Same goes for that bus that just flew by. You have to be fast on the draw.
QR codes were invented In the 90’s and gained prominence in 2011 when large companies like Best Buy and Macy’s started using them.
Using QR codes made sense. Drive people to the website right away to shorten the selling cycle and increase the conversion rate for people buying whatever the product was. Other companies fearing they might not look as technologically savvy as their competitors jumped on the bandwagon. Some examples of bad QR codes can be viewed at www.wtfqrcodes.com or some of my favorites on Pinterest. Who cared if QR codes were open source and each reader acted differently. Companies had the next greatest marketing tool.
You might wonder if people actually scan QR codes, and how many. The answer according to Comscore is yes, but not as many as you might think. More on that a little later. You can take a deeper dive into the details at Marketing Charts.
So marketers took advantage of the tool and pasted it on buses, subways without a mobile connection, people, advertisements and websites. While it might not make sense on online ads since a link is faster, it does on print since some of the links you have to connect to are just too long to write down or type in. One potential downside of a QR code is the remote possibility someone might place a malicious code over a legitimate one, which can cause a lot of problems when you scan it.
So how many people scan QR codes? The data implies that the number of people scanning QR codes (approximately 1 in 5 Smartphone users), is declining as smart phone usage increases. But there are enough people doing it, much like people read magazines, to make it useful as a marketing tool. Dollars spent on mobile recognition, which QR codes are part of, is estimated to increase to $364 million by 2015 by the Mobile Marketing Association.
There are also alternatives to the basic QR codes in the mobile scanning space including the following –
- QR codes that blend in with the design around them. Check out www.visulead.com
- Watermarking which places a graphical marker on the printed piece. Check out www.digimarc.com
- Invisible elements printed on a page using special inks. Check out Touchcode at www.touchcode.de/
- Associating a graphic element in the existing design to online content. Check out http://rii/ricoh.com/clickable-paper
Are QR codes still viable? Without a doubt, YES! QR codes are not going to disappear. One of the biggest issues with QR codes is that they don’t lead to anything of value to the user. Remember they are spending their time getting there. One of our clients uses QR codes in their equipment to link to online maintenance videos to help user’s trouble shoot problems. Think creatively and measure their usage. For more information on setting up a simple QR code tracking system take a look this video http://youtu.be/UmKqnuo45KU.
Which is better – QR codes or invisible links? Either way the end user will have to load another app on their mobile device. The average mobile phone user has somewhere between 32 and 40 apps on their phone, less the big 5 (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) out of the 1,000,000 plus available you just need to choose the one people are willing to download and use. Right now it appears the winner is the basic QR code. Of course the best way to deliver QR codes and invisible links is through print.
I hope you enjoyed the article. Connect with GP to get more NEW IDEAS.