QR Codes are stupid. I still don’t get it.

marketing and business — Tags: , — Ramsey Mohsen @ Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 - 2:19 am

I’m trying really hard to understand why this technology, invented in 1994 (Japan), to track auto parts- why is *this* the next big thing? It’s a friggin’ bar code (101 on QR codes here). It just seems a bunch of marketers are globbing on to launch a campaign in fear of not being innovative or relevant. I’ve started doing research on this topic, and nearly spit out my water reading a quote from RetailGeek.com saying “QR codes represent the best way for an in-store marketer to connect the real world with digital content on a shopper’s mobile device.” Really? I’m having a hard time believing that. Here’s a few reasons why:

Level of education required

My mom has no clue what a QR code is. And she definitely doesn’t know what it looks like. The first step in using a QR code, is your audience has to know what it is, when they see it. Let’s call this hurdle #1.

You must download an app

In order to even scan a QR code, you’ve got to have an app that recognizes what it is. And smart phone cameras do not have native recognition for QR codes. The iPhone camera app won’t recognize it, nor will any Android phone. You must have a 3rd-party app. Hurdle #2.

Investment in time

Take a moment to think of the heavy investment in time you’re asking your audience to complete. Think of all the lost conversions that can happen along the way: 1.) Recognize the QR code and know what it is and what to do 2.) Have an app installed on their mobile phone to scan the QR code 3.) Scan the QR code 4.) THEN, complete what it is that you wanted them to complete when they get back the information.

We’ve come along way since 1994

Other technologies have been invented since 1994 that more gracefully tackle what QR codes are hailed to “solve” and make easy.

  • URL shorters and friendly versions of your domain. Easy to remember domains or sub-domains are a common practice, and is globally understood for “http://” or “.com or .org”.
  • Mobile websites and their ability to call functions or applications on smart phones are advanced and very capable. All the same functions that QR codes can do, mobile optimized websites are able to do this as well: activate a phone #, send an email, launch Google Maps or send a text message, and most importantly, this can be done without requiring the users to download an app first, to activate these functions.

I’m not saying you should never use QR codes. But before selecting and using QR code technology, think through the context of the visit from the end-users perspective. Think of your audience? Are they savvy enough? Do they have enough time given the context of where they are? Are you truly making it easier by asking them to scan QR code to get the information? OR are there other solutions and more practical ways to achieve the same goal of providing back the mobile content?

I’m still doing research on this technology, so prove me wrong in the comments if you think I’m off-base. Let’s hear it. I’ve been looking for successful case studies of QR executions, and the most notable one I’ve found so far is how Chevy used QR at the 2010 SXSW, only 240 people of the 12,000 people who attended, scanned the QR codes they put on cars that were on display. Tough conversion numbers in my opinion, especially for an audience that is considered on the highest end of the spectrum for being tech-savvy.

– Mashable posted today why they think QR Codes will go mainstream (i disagree).
QRmedia.us seems to be a good resource for updates in the QR industry.
http://goo.gl/ is a great tool for generating QR codes.
Bit.ly is a great tool for generating and tracking QR codes.
http://qrcode.kaywa.com is a great tool for generating QR codes.
http://www.customqrcodes.com/custom-qr-codes-gallery a great place for custom QR code examples and execution.
– Jay Baer provides his take and advice on QR codes usage in print advertisements

**update 2**

(c) 2015 Ramsey Mohsen