We’ve seen QR Codes splashed all over Billboard Advertising, in Newspaper magazines and on Business Cards. Recently we’ve seen bit.ly and goo.gl include them in their short URL’s and today Techcrunch are telling us QR Codes are being used to map to Facebook like buttons for businesses.
When announcing bit.lys move into QR codes (and the convoluted method of creating them) Mashable’s Lauren Indvik made clear that not only was the creation of QR codes via URL shortening services ‘not revolutionary in any sense‘ there appeared to be only one group clearly interested:
Many Industries are grappling with the way they can use new technology to better grow their businesses, and marketers are always there to help. There’s nothing wrong with that per se especially when, as identified in a recent “Real Estate Technology Blog“:
One of the major perks is that all of the scans are tracked and thus the ROI is fairly easy to detect, critical to any high level marketer.
Most importantly the marketer should be able to show to their customer the work they have done was successful in a way which Print Advertising and Marketing has always struggled to display. And then the customer – in this case the advertiser, should see a benefit from that, as long as their customer is using the technology.
But will customers use them? Do potential customers need them? And more importantly do customers even know what they are?
This evening, I asked my wife if she knew what a QR Code was. She thought it might be something to do with Quality Processes. A quick Twitter poll of my followers brought a reasonably large response.
Quick Twitter Poll. How many of you have seen a QR Code and used it to get to a site or information, this month? this year? ever? pls RT
Less than 10% of respondents have used one recently. About 25% have created their own but never used any, 20% never heard of them, and a number have tried them to see if they worked or seen them, but couldn’t be bothered.
Okay it’s a small sample, but the reality is I’ve had them on my business cards for over two years and I can’t recall anyone pulling out their smartphone to take a photo of the Code in order to have my contact details quickly on their phone. That’s because it’s easier for me to mail them my vcf from my phone to theirs. Hell it’s even easier to just use Bump on my iPhone. And in any case they probably didn’t have the software required to convert the code to the data required.
And here’s the problem as identified by Techcrunch:
…even if they do (know what they are), it’s too much of a hassle to power up your QR scanning app on your phone (assuming you have one) just to get a marketing message…Until QR code scanners become a default feature of most smartphones and they start to become actually useful enough for people to go through the trouble to scan them, they will remain a gee-whiz feature nobody uses.
While some of us want to take the time to think about the how and why, most people just want stuff that works. The marketers and mobile application developers, many of whom the marketers hire, can continue to spend a whole lot of effort to continue to evangelise the technology and it’s benefits. As long as each use case that I’ve seen for them can be easily replicated using other simpler methods, those other methods will be the ones which people will continue to use in preference.
My thoughts on this subject were prompted by a tweet from Swedish Art Director @dabitch
There were JC Decaux bilboards with art & mobile codes on them in the city. With 2 phones in my pocket, I still couldn’t be arsed. #deadtech
which sums it up really.
What then for technology like QR Codes whose usefulness is limited because of its reliance not just on other technology like smartphones and related software but also by appearing to have no one standout use case in the Consumer market.
Technology has given us many of the greatest ideas over the years, many of which when created seemed like great solutions to peoples needs. However, the quality of ideas must be measured in their usefulness and therefore their use.
xkcd put it in another way (HT @Mrflungabunga)
Sometimes good ideas should be left to what they were invented to do. QR Code’s initial use, and barcodes in general are a great example of that. Perhaps it is just a slow burner, but I don’t see anyone interested in using QR codes in the consumer space but marketers. And if your customer isn’t interested, it’s time to try something else.