You’re starting to see them everywhere, right? Those black and white pixilated square codes that supposedly “everyone” is scanning away like crazy. Ever wonder what the fuss is all about?
Me too. Frankly, I don’t really like them. As a consumer or as a marketer. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain.
First, here’s the basic deal with QR Codes.
They are one type of 2D mobile barcode; there are many other types (Microsoft Tag, SnapTag, etc.) and they work like this: A smartphone with a QR Code reader app installed on it can be pointed at a code and it will make something happen on the phone.
It can open a website, open a mobile app store listing, start a video, send a text message, display a message onscreen or even send digital content to the phone. Sounds great so far.
Here’s why I am not a big fan yet:
As a consumer I find that most times the codes are little islands of marketing. There is nothing around them to tell me what will happen to my phone when I scan the code. What is my compelling reason to do it?
Also as a consumer, many times when I do scan a code it goes to a FULL SIZE website. OK, can you see the complete and udder stupidity of that? The only device that can even work a QR Code is a mobile device. Any action that the code takes must work on a mobile device.
As a marketer I am not a big fan because using a mobile tool that only works on smartphones leaves too many people out. With only a 35% smartphone penetration rate in the US and a 30% one in Canada, using only a QR Code is automatically excluding a vast majority of potential customers.
Also, there is a lot of potential for technical glitches along the way with QR codes that is not in my control. As a marketer, I want to make things smooth and easy for customers. As an example, if the end user has a crappy app for scanning that takes too long or one that includes ads on the results, then it makes my business look bad.
And, yes that happens. I was demonstrating a QR code once in a training class and one of the students who has just scanned my code to go to a basic mobile landing page I had set up just for the demo asked me, “Why do you have an ad for online poker on here?” Naturally, I didn’t and we figured out it was her QR scanner app that had inserted the app when it displayed my mobile landing page.
All that said, I DO think that QR Codes have a bright future as a mobile marketing tool. Once more phones come with high quality scanner apps pre-installed, businesses start consistently using them correctly and a vast majority of consumers have smartphones they will be awesome.
For now, I say leave the QR Codes on the shelf and use the tools that are more inclusive of all mobile users and work simply and reliably. Oh, and mobilize your website because you already have mobile traffic to your site, even if you think you have an audience that is ‘not really mobile.’ Trust me on this. I’ll do another post next week showing you how to find out what your mobile traffic is and share my shockingly high mobile traffic on one of my sites.
Additional Resources on QR Codes:
See my Mobile Marketing in the Wild post about a Cute QR Code I spotted at Jamba Juice. And, be sure to read Roger Marquis’ site 2D Barcode Strategy for tons of great information about all kinds of 2d bar codes including QR Codes. If you do want to dive into QR Codes anyway, check out QR Stuff (affiliate link) for building and tracking your codes .
Do you use QR Codes, as a consumer? In your business?