(Still) Seeking the Sweet Spot with QR Codes

QR codesI’ve blogged before about how QR codes – those splotchy icons at which someone can point their mobile device and be taken to a website for product information, a coupon or some other type of content – seem to be having difficulty becoming accepted by the mainstream of U.S. consumers.

And now we have yet more evidence to suggest that QR codes may never achieve the level of potential that marketers have hoped for them.

Youth marketing and esearch firm Archrival give us the latest clues as to the lack of adoption we’re seeing when it comes to QR codes. Here are two key findings from a survey it conducted among 500+ students at 24 American college campuses in late 2011:

 Although ~80% of respondents owned a smartphone and claimed to have come in contact with QR codes, only ~21% were actually able to successfully scan the QR code example that was presented in the Archrival’s survey.

 Three out of four respondents reported that they’d be “unlikely” to scan even one QR code in the future.

What’s the problem? Archrival uncovered a number of hurdles when it comes to QR codes. Several of them could be classified as “deal breakers” in the overall scope of things:

 Many survey respondents did not realize that a third-party app needs to be activated in order to scan a QR code. They mistakenly assume that it can be activated with their camera.

 Other respondents believe that the QR code-reading process is too lengthy and cumbersome.

And on a more fundamental level, doubts are being expressed about the value or usefulness of the web landing pages that are promoted via the QR codes.

What we may be witnessing is a dynamic that’s similar in some respects to what happened with CD-ROMs about a decade ago. There was once a boomlet of CD-ROMs being sent via mail to consumer and B-to-B customers. CDs were viewed as a great way to provide extensive rich content that was difficult to download and expensive to print traditionally.

But because the tool was “one step removed” (it needed to be loaded into a desktop computer in order to be viewed), the rate of interaction with these CDs turned out to be abysmal.

Similarly with QR codes, first there’s the need to possess a smartphone with a barcode scanning app installed. Once properly equipped, people then need to take the time to find and launch the app on their mobile device before pointing the camera at the QR code.

For many in today’s “instant gratification” world, taking those extra steps, however simple, may be a bridge too far.

2 thoughts on “(Still) Seeking the Sweet Spot with QR Codes

  1. Great post…I enjoy your candor and willingness to question the use of QR codes. I am a techno-geek and if I am not consistently using QR codes – I would find it hard to believe that neophytes are.

    Just a short example story of how QR codes are *not* working as planned. Just last week I was in Bangkok, Thailand on business and instead of printing out my boarding pass I used the QR code. Of course, the “reader” had a hard time scanning it and I inadvertently held up the line trying to board an international flight – not good!

    Lesson learned – print my boarding pass next time.

    Jeff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s