August 2011

QR – WTF?

by Nicole Branigan on August 4, 2011 · 0 comments

Quick Response, or QR codes have been popping up all over the place. These codes are readable by barcode scanners and smartphones with cameras. These codes supplement advertisements found in public bathrooms, buses, subways, and print ads everywhere.

QR codes are meant to be scanned with a smartphone, after which users will be brought to a mobile website for a product or business. In some cases (when done correctly) QR codes will bring consumers to a landing page offering discounts or deals on specific products.

These codes are meant to bring products and businesses to consumers on a mobile level. In other words, businesses don’t simply want to pay for an advertisement on a bus or in a public restroom for people to look at it and forget it. By creating an interactive experience with incentive, advertisements quickly become unforgettable.

Here’s the problem. I keep seeing QR codes used incorrectly, and sometimes disastrously. Here are the top three worst things I’ve seen done with QR codes:

1. A QR code that goes straight to the website.

Here’s an example. If you see a print-ad for Old Navy, you’ll immediately think, Old Navy or OldNavy.com. If you own a smartphone, what’s stopping you from typing in OldNavy.com. In most cases, going to your mobile browser and typing in the website of the company is easier than downloading a barcode scanner on your phone, scanning a picture, making sure it’s aligned well enough to read the barcode – only to be brought to the website of the company. Where’s the incentive? QR codes will work best when they offer consumers a reason, and the result makes the consumer feel special.

2. A QR code on a website.

This is a “wtf” moment for me. If I’m viewing a website from my computer, why would I pull out my smartphone, scan a QR code and view the website in its smaller version on my mobile browser? What is the point of that?

3. A QR code on a banner ad.

I couldn’t believe this when I saw it. Again, if I’m viewing the website and I see a banner ad, isn’t it easier to click the banner ad with my mouse rather than scan it on my smartphone? Even if there is a 10 or 20% discount at the end of that scan, what amount of consumers will actually take advantage of this?

Call me a QR hater, but I have a hard time seeing the value in QR codes anyway, even with America quickly becoming one of the most mobile nations in the world. In fact, more Americans have smartphones than degrees (1 in 3 Americans owns a smartphone). Until we can figure out the true value of QR codes in order to use them well we should avoid using the next big technological fad until we understand it.

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