QR Codes: Are They Dead Yet?

Reposted from here

In today’s ever-changing digital world, evaluation is key to continually moving forward. Sometimes we have to stop for a moment to take a look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and whether it’s time to adapt -- or pack up and move on altogether.

QR codes were birthed nearly 20 years ago. But it was only recently when the Quick Response code shifted from being used for tracking vehicles in manufacturing to becoming an addition in our everyday lives. Their presence in magazines and subway stations, on billboards, and even condom packaging is hard to ignore.

Today, half of the U.S. population owns a smartphone. If you think this means people are scanning QR codes left and right, you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, only 19 percent of U.S. smartphone users have scanned a QR code in some form. Something’s wrong with that number.

This leads me to wonder about the number of people actually using QR codes regularly. Do people download the app to only scan one QR code, never to open it again?

It’s 2013--if QR codes aren’t in the ground yet, are users truly experiencing value through their utilization? I think it comes down to two main issues:

1. Businesses aren’t using QR codes correctly – QR codes are being used everywhere. In fact, there’s even a website dedicated to showcasing some of the most absurd QR codes found around the world. Let’s face it, no one is using the QR codes placed on the side of a tractor trailer. Businesses need to step back and take a minute to focus on more effectively reaching their target audience. When the codes are placed on the side of a moving tractor trailer, are you really reaching your target audience?

Businesses are also failing to consider what the QR code should be directing the consumer to. If it’s not informative, helpful, and mobile-friendly content, what’s the point? This doesn’t leave smartphone users with any motivation to scan.

Finally, QR codes don’t leave much room for a short attention span. The entire process is far too lengthy to be successful. First, an individual has to locate the QR code, take out their phone, make sure their app is up-to-date, scan the code, and wait for the page to load. At this point, their mind has already moved on to checking Facebook, updating Twitter, or texting their mom.

2. Smartphone users fail to recognize the value of QR codes – While it may seem like a simple concept, users simply don’t know how to use QR codes. Poorly placed QR codes are a big issue, but even when they’re placed appropriately, users are rarely prepared to scan the code when they see it.

I conducted my own informal survey with 23 respondents. In it, I asked, “How many times have you scanned a QR code in the last 30 days?” The results:

  • 16 of those surveyed have not scanned a QR code in the last 30 days

  • 3 respondents have scanned a QR code 2 or more times in the last 30 days

  • 2 of those surveyed have scanned a QR code one time in the last 30 days

  • 2 respondents answered, “What’s a QR code?”

My survey is only a small sample, but I think it offers support in answering the question of “what’s wrong with QR codes?” The answer is simple: QR codes are dying in their current form.

QR codes are running a thin line of turning into spam. If businesses don’t appropriately embrace the use of QR codes to support their overall marketing goals, and users learn how to use them, QR codes are certain to be gone for good.

Do you use QR codes?

Image courtesy of Orange Photo; Flickr

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