QR codes have piqued a lot of interest from people who try to be on the edge of good marketing technology but don’t really think through the uses of them. I know that we have all worked with one of those people at one time or another. “Hey there is this new great technology that marketers are using called QR codes. Let’s stick them all over the place to drive traffic to our website!”
The reality is QR codes are rarely the right solution for a handful of reasons, and finding the right reason is harder than you think. For those of you who don’t know all about QR codes, they are those nice little digital boxes that you can take a picture of with your cell phone and they redirect you to a website. It’s a pretty cool little idea, and we all know that mobile adoption and mobile web traffic is going through the roof. So we should jump all over this, right? WRONG!
Most People Don’t Have QR Readers Installed On Their Phones
It was hard to find any research on the subject, but I was able to find some comScore data showing that 14 million Americans scanned QR codes on their mobile phones. When you put this into perspective only about 35% of the U.S. market has a smartphone, and we are only talking about 15% of those visitors who are scanning QR codes with their phones. So this technology has a market penetration of about 5%. I can think of a whole lot more compelling things that I want to do than hit a much larger audience. Personally I don’t have a QR code reader installed on my phone. I need a good compelling reason to do it.
Directing People to a Non-Mobile Optimized Website
First of all, the main use of QR codes is for mobile devices. If you are driving this traffic to a specific URL and that page isn’t optimized for a mobile experience you are failing out of the gate. You either need to get your website mobile optimized first or give up on QR codes.
QR Codes in Emails
If I’m getting an email from you, why do I need a QR code in that email? I’m already on my computer or phone and a normal link works just as well, right? Actually the link works even better because chances are I have images disabled for mass mailings and don’t see your QR code in the first place.
QR Codes on Billboards
When I think of billboards I usually think of billboards on the side of the interstate when I’m driving 60+ miles an hour. How am I going to pull out my phone and scan your QR code? If we are talking about a billboard in a location with mainly pedestrians I still can’t get behind the idea. I’m probably more focused on getting from point A to point B then scanning your code and visiting your website.
QR Codes in Locations Without Internet Access
I’m specifically talking about airplanes or in subway terminals but there are other locations where we can’t access things online. These seem like a good idea because we are probably in waiting mode and have time to read, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can.
Not Including Tracking or Goals with QR Codes
How are you measuring the results? Do you have tracking installed on this URL? Do you have a compelling offer on the page visitors land on so that you can measure success? Why are we doing a QR code in the first place if we aren’t trying to measure results or hit a goal?
I haven’t even and won’t attempt to tackle in this article how QR Codes tie into your goals because they probably don’t. Personally I’m still a huge fan of vanity URLs. Not only am I much more likely to remember the URL if I see it somewhere (because I can read it unlike a complicated black and white square image), but I can just as easily type it into my phone or computer rather than trying to install some extra software and take a picture of your QR code. I take that back. I’m not going to install that extra software because I just don’t care enough.
I will say that I’ve been racking my brain for a good use for a QR code, and I think I’ve found a compelling one. We are working now at nuCloud on rolling out QR codes for locations in our interactive map platform. Essentially I’m visiting a building or location on a campus and see a QR code that I can scan and get information about this specific place right on my mobile phone. It’s kind of like a tour of campus without a tour guide and only to the locations that I want to go or that I’m currently visiting. Yes, it is an actual use for a QR code that is useful and value adding. Of course I’m still going to recommend to our customers to have a bit.ly or some other shortened URL right below the QR code for those mobile visitors that don’t care enough to install additional software.
Curious to see funny examples of QR code fails? You should read this article 11 dubious uses of QR codes.
Photo Credit: QR Code on Bus by eekim