QR Codes: are they still useful, or are they destined for the scrapheap?
Last year I wrote an article about how one might be able to get the best out of QR (Quick Response) codes. Despite them having been around for a while, they didn’t seem to be used very effectively – certainly not with any frequency anyway. So, as a follow up to that article we ask the question: are they still useful or should we try something else?
What is a QR code?
For those of us who are playing catch up and haven’t got the foggiest idea what a QR code is: it’s basically a way of storing information in an image so that when it is scanned by a smartphone it can lead the user to the information – typically a website or in some case a phone number.
Do people use them?
Well, they’re still being used by companies looking for ways to market their business. Flick through the pages of any magazine and you’re likely to find a QR code directing you to the company’s website or to some sort of promotion. However, the question that should be asked is whether the consumer is using them and here the outlook seems a lot bleaker.
Despite the fact that QR codes are readily available; research indicates that the consumer simply does not use them. When was the last time you scanned a QR code? If it was more recent than a few months ago then you’re certainly in a minority.
Why aren’t they being used?
There are a number of reasons why consumers are yet to fall in love with QR codes. Here are a few of them:
- Smartphones generally do not come with a QR code reader already installed and consequently, many users don’t ever get round to downloading one
- Generally eye-catching advertising (with a relevant QR code) is placed in impractical places as far as QR code scanning is concerned. A QR code on a massive billboard is not exactly the easiest thing to scan; and advertisements that you may get close to are often in areas with no mobile network; the underground being one example.
- Many users feel that the experience is slightly cumbersome and time consuming and that the end result is seldom worth it.
What can you use instead?
Perhaps one of the other reasons that QR codes have never really taken off is because there are plenty of alternatives:
- Mobile applications: Lots of mobile applications have the facility for you to scan ‘actual’ barcodes and search on the Internet for that information.
- Image search: Searching via image rather than text has become a highly popular way for people to source things on the Internet and now a user can take a photo of something with their phone and search for it on Google; often finding the same sort of information that one might access via a QR code.
- Nearfield communication (NFC): NFC has become more popular, and Samsung have started to use it effectively in their smartphone range. Simply put, NFC appears to be a more user friendly and easy method to achieve similar aims.
So maybe QR codes are destined to be the technology idea that was always in the wrong place – developed before the smartphone that it needed to succeed and now running behind newer technologies like NFC.