Imagine you’re on a packed London Underground train. There are posters, located near the ceiling, advertising products such as diet plans, treatments for erectile dysfunction, and cures for hair loss. Are you, as a passenger, going to whip out your mobile phone, load a QR scanner, go over to the advertisement and scan a barcode in full view of all the other passengers? No, of course not.
Yet many marketeers are treating QR codes as some sort of must-use miracle sales method. They are not. For a start, none of the mobile phones I’ve seen come with QR scanners pre-installed. That prevents widespread use of the QR code. Even in America, as Forbes has reported, only 17 per cent of smartphone users scanned a QR code in June.
What’s more, there are doubts as to how many people keep using the system regularly after trying it out. In fact, consumers seem to be getting bored of the technology, with only half of those who have used QR codes feeling that they “sometimes” receive something of use from scanning a code.
Google has already voted against QR codes by removing support for them from Google Places. The Register technology website says that it is actually quicker to type than to scan a code. “The problem with QR Codes isn’t that they are hard to use, but that mobile search has become so easy as to make it appear so.”
And marketeers don’t help matters by forgetting to offer a benefit if the consumer scans the code. They fail to say “Scan this code to get 20% off”. Instead, they just vomit the QR code on the advert, without explanation.
None of this stops marketing people claiming that scanning codes helps consumers “engage in a richer, more immersive experience than was previously possible in today’s highly efficient commerce environment” – whatever that means.
In the future, mobiles will be able to scan a logo and bring up the relevant website, if consumers want to do that. In the meantime, what’s wrong with old-fashioned web addresses? They can be easy to remember and everyone knows how to use them.