The future for QR codes can be rosy


Whenever I read reports that assess how poorly QR codes and other barcodes are doing, and the unhappy outlook for their future, I’m always reminded of Hugh McLeod’s classic cartoon from 2007 you see here.

A new report from eMarketer says that QR codes aren’t giving consumers what they want.

[…] “What consumers want from their 2-D barcode experience and what brands deliver are typically at odds,” said eMarketer. “Consumers want deals and discounts. Brands want to deliver information.”

[…] Poorly aligned consumer-brand expectations for mobile barcode-linked content and inadequate user experiences are driving consumers away from mobile barcode use. “Until marketers move beyond the practice of pushing content to consumers via mobile barcodes, and instead give consumers what they want … many consumers will continue to consider their first mobile barcode experience their last,” said eMarketer.

This hits the nail right on the head. I would agree that many uses of such barcodes really do lack imagination. It’s becoming common to see these images on all sorts of brand packaging, magazine ads and more, yet offer little compulsion to do anything especially when it’s still far from easy for most people to make use of this relatively-simple technology.

When you see it done well, though, it’s something to be excited about when you think what some imagination can do.

What needs to happen is that, unlike at present, barcode-scanning software should come built-in with your smartphone. All you’d have to do is point your device’s camera at a QR code or other barcode for it to do its thing.

No loading up, clicking, tapping or what-have-you.

A really good product that I use is Barcode Scanner, a free app for Android that does exactly what it says – scans barcodes including QR codes. Its simplicity is key: once you load it, you point your device and it does its thing.

Another good example is Amazon’s mobile app for Android – it includes a barcode scanner so you can scan a product in a store, for example, and the app looks it up in Amazon’s inventory and presents it to you on your smartphone. Handy when you’re out comparison-shopping.

Until that day arrives, though, marketers can help themselves in three simple ways:

  1. Understand what consumers want. (I’d argue that consumers don’t always or even necessarily want discounts – what they really want is something compelling.)
  2. Offer consumers a genuinely high expectation of something compelling from your QR code that makes a breeze of the current process of finding some software, installing it on a device and scanning a code.
  3. Help those consumers be delighted with their experience via your QR code by applying your imagination.

Whether the end result is a discount or something really user-compelling, what happens at that point is the make or break for that part of your user/brand engagement.

It’s not what the software does, it’s what the user does.

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