QR code: to use or not to use? That is the question.

QR codes have been kicking around for a while. One of my colleagues interestingly choseto describe it as “another example of nice idea from a tech perspective, but not that useful in reality”.

QR codes have attracted controversies and support alike. Jon Barocas in his article “Why QR codes won’t last” on @mashable, describes how Mobile Visual Search (MVS) will displace QR codes and the security risks of QR codes. In this post, I am not trying to add to the controversies or support.

Personally, I believe QR codes like any other technology, will ultimately be displaced by new innovations. Keeping pace with new innovations, technological or otherwise, has always been one of the key challenges for marketeers.

I also believe that the real challenge though, is to use available tools in an innovative way to deliver great experience which will ultimately decide success vs failure of a marketing initiative. And the same applies here to QR codes.

Yes, QR codes involve that bit of extra effort by the user to fire up an App. But time and again, it has been proven, make it worth their while and they will do it! As long user effort involved feels like it is a part of their journey rather than a hurdle to overcome to get to what they want.

Tesco reinvented Grocery shopping in Korea with its Virtual Stores, and QR codes play an integral part its success.

Next time your stick a QR code up somewhere, here are a few things to think about:

  • What does the end to end journey look like, is it consistent?
  • Is there a quicker alternative which is cheaper (less effort) for the user? Sometimes its better to stick up a short url which a user can type into their mobile browser. Its quicker than firing up a QR code reader app, scanning the QR code, and then waiting for browser redirect.
  • Does your QR code link to a mobile friendly browser page? When was the last time you scanned a QR code on a laptop or desktop?!!

QR codes provide a great way of connecting your physical and digital world, of course MVS is an equally compelling alternative. But MVS is still developing, QR code is a cheap and easy alternative.

To use or not to use? Well, that depends on where, when and how. Sticking a QR code into a banner ad on the train station, does not make it any more likely someone will visit your site than putting a URL on it. The key is to flip and think from the user experience point of view and what you are going to achieve by incorporating QR codes.

Do you know of other examples of how QR codes have been used in a seamless way like the Tesco virtual stores in Korea? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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