I was engaging in an interesting discussion on Google+ last week about the relevance of the not-so-humble QR code. Naturally, I began thinking about creating a blog post about these dandy little marketing gizmos.
What is a QR Code?
If you imagine someone throwing a barcode into a blender for a few seconds, then you might have something that looks a lot like a QR code. I’m not going to cover the technical side of things for this post, as I’d like to cover it in much more detail another day.
Chances are, you’ve seen them around on billboards, magazines, or even online. The picture on the right is a stunning example.
When you’re out and about, you can scan these with a mobile device – usually a smartphone – and it will pick up the relevant data.
[info]We actually featured a QR code generator here on our site.[/info]
The Discussion of Relevance
It should be noted that the benefit of a QR code is also the chink in its armour. As far as I’m aware, as of writing, no mobile devices come with QR code readers natively – users have to download an app to their device in order to scan. The main reason that ‘responsive design’ and ‘mobile friendly’ are bandied about so much these days is the ubiquity of web browsing on smartphones: they all have built in browsers.
But what else? Well, as a business, Glyvolution finds itself creating some QR codes for clients, for use in a variety of campaigns. Personally however, I have to admit that while I use them fairly extensively when marketing and testing, I almost never scan QR codes as a consumer. And I think this is somewhat of a trend. I can’t recall ever seeing someone in a public place scanning a QR code. In fact, the sight of someone doing just that would be unique enough that I would definitely remember it.
But Why Aren’t QR Codes Being Used?
Its pretty simple when you think about it.
Lets say you’re looking at a billboard; you just want the information. You don’t expect a book-worth of details, and you don’t really want to make the effort to grab your phone, find the scanning app, launch it, get the code in focus, and wait for it to process, all the while wondering if whatever the QR code is or wherever it takes you will actually have been worth the effort. Because they can represent a number of different things, its sometimes difficult to know what you’re going to get.
If you’re looking at that same billboard as a passenger in a car or public transport, you won’t even have the time to whip out your phone, much less get the app up and running.
So Why Would You Use a QR Code?
The idea behind QR codes is pretty sound: they remove the need to remember lengthy (or even shortened) URLs, or start typing away on your onscreen keyboard.
Marketeers have been making use of QR codes for years. That said, as with all marketing activities, there are good and bad examples.[box]
- Newspapers – it depends a bit on your target audience, but you can increase traffic to your website. QR codes only need to be black and white, so they’re much better than having a URL.
- Maps – quickly give out directions from the location of the QR code to your premises etc.
- Physical products – not enough room on the label for supplementary information about your widgets? No problem – direct your would-be customers to a website or short video.
- Secret stashes – rather than just directing to your site’s homepage, you can link to a ‘secret page’ with bonus content or features to reward user engagement.
- Unlockables – might seem like a fringe case, but unlocking content in Facebook or other social games is a great way to get people scanning away merrily.
- Magazines – again, it depends a bit on your target audience, but URL shortening is generally better because they’ll take up less real-estate on the page.
- Roadside billboards – we’ve already covered this, but its a nightmare to get a scan when hurtling by in a car; you’re better off with something pretty taking up the space than an ugly QR code.
- On-screen media – Using a handheld computer to scan something on the screen of another computer; if this doesn’t strike you as at least a little bit daft, just think about it for a minute.
- A clock – yes, this is actually a thing. Something silly for the end of the list.
So I wonder: do you use QR codes for your business? Can you think of some other great examples of QR code usage that you’ve seen around? Let us know in the comments.