Commentary

The Long, Enduring Life of the QR Code

Woman-Scanning-QR-Code-In-Store-AIn the middle of the lengthy and comprehensive study on emerging digital platforms by Edison Research and Arbitron I came across a stat about QR code scanning.

Based on the findings, it looks like those little black-box codes are hardly going away. The researchers found that almost a quarter (21%) of smartphone owners have at least scanned a QR code at least once.

While not an earth-shattering percentage, when you consider it as part of the more than a billion smartphones, code scanning  has been tried by millions of people.

Publishers have been enamored with the codes for years, placing them on magazine ads and embedding them in stories long before consumers had any knowledge, not to mention any interest, in them.

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Some of the scanning no doubt is out of curiosity, since most of those who have scanned a code do not scan daily, based on the study.

It’s likely that some people scanned a QR code early, had a less than positive experience and never came back, which is too bad.

Part of the cause was the early lack of innovation in QR code deployment, where companies or marketers simply routed the consumer to a website by the barcode scan.

Since then, brands and agencies have gotten smarter and much more sophisticated, along with the major QR code provides, most notably Scanbuy and Spyderlynk.

They’ve made QR codes less unsightly, increasing their appeal to both marketers and consumers. Experience also has shown them what it takes to entice a consumer to scan.

The codes also have become more functional, so that rather than sending a person to a website they can draw them into an engagement that leads to commerce.

The study found that smartphones owners will try a large number of things on their phones but that the number of people who do most of those functions on a daily basis is relatively small.

Other than phone calls, texting and net usage, fewer than half of smartphone owners do anything else daily with their phones.

At least they are trying things, which provides long-term hope for QR codes.

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10 comments about "The Long, Enduring Life of the QR Code".
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  1. Randy f Price from Digital Pricepoints, April 19, 2013 at 4:11 p.m.

    It gets back to the value equation. What is the benefit of using your time to snap the QR code when the payout is next to zilch.

    How about something more compelling than dumping the potential customer on the mobile site home page.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 19, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

    You are so right, Randy, it has to lead to a rewarding experience or something of value to the consumer.

  3. Ondine Bult from BestBuzz.Bz, April 19, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

    Great point Randy, BestBuzz offers customers rewards for scanning QR codes and excellent data and analytics for the businesses who use them.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 19, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.

    Incentives are one way to increase scanning (a la Shopkick, etc.), thanks Ondine.

  5. Rudhra Adhin from YD, April 22, 2013 at 4:53 a.m.

    Most people that scan for the first time simply use their camera app. Not realizing they need a QR scanner app. This is in my opinion a big treshold.
    If camera apps would support QR scanning by default (an option you can touch on the screen when in camera mode) QR codes would be more useful.

    Especially scan-to-download QR codes. What is the use of that if you need to go to the App store manually and download a scanner simply to scan a code to download an app?

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 22, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

    Great idea, Rudhra, though not sure this is right around the corner. Good news is the leading QR code companies and marketers include text-to directions on most codes now.

  7. Juliette Cowall from Godwin Plumbing & Hardware, April 23, 2013 at 9:21 a.m.

    21% in the last month? Year? Ever?

  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 23, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.

    Yes, Juliette, the question was whether they had ever scanned one.

  9. Charles D'Angelo from SABIC, April 23, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.

    Randy makes an excellent point about the need for a value proposition when clicking on a QR code. Best Buy, in my opinion, does a good job utilizing QR codes in-store as a scan will provide more information on products and customer reviews. Video would be more compelling however.

  10. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, April 23, 2013 at 1:44 p.m.

    Agreed, Charles, as many using MMS at retail have already figured out.

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