23 Mar 2015

Why QR codes failed

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Why QR codes failed


From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code

For a while, I was very excited about QR codes (I jumped on the Fan bandwagon.) I still think that they are the best bridge between print and digital, but they never gained the popularity I expected. You see them here and there but nothing too significant and really, when was the last time you scanned one?

The primary cause for this tepid popularity is the lack of support from mobile companies, not one of them support QR codes natively; you still need to download an app to scan them.

To be fair you can’t blame Apple, Google and Microsoft for not supporting it, most QR codes you see have a bad execution to the point, that there are even a few websites dedicated to funny QR codes failures.

Poor understanding of the technology is the main culprit for these bad implementations. One would think since these codes are only for phones, internet connectivity would be of top priority when deciding where to use these QR codes, yet you still see them in tunnels and underground subway stations. Another overlooked factor is proximity, you need to be close to the QR code before you can scan it, so no QR codes on billboards, please. If a person does scan your QR code, make sure they go to relevant content that is mobile friendly. Remember; people are using their phones.

If you are planning to use QR codes for your marketing strategy keep in mind that loading web pages are not the only thing you can do with the codes, there are many other uses and some don’t even need an internet connection. For example the picture in this post, my business card includes a QR code that loads my vCard right into your contact list.
Take a look at all the thing you can do with QR codes beside loading a web page.
  • Display text
  • Setting up system alerts
  • Adding events to calendars
  • Load contact information (including vCards)
  • Send email
  • Send text messages (SMS)
  • Geolocation
  • Call other phones
  • Connect to Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Like a Facebook Page

Browsers have been able to launch and load email clients by just clicking on an email link for years now. With smartphones, there is a whole bunch of things you can do combining QR codes with URI Schemes (Uniform Resource Identifier http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URI_scheme.)

Here’s a list of some cool things that are possible:
  • Launch native Apple apps (Mail, Phone, FaceTime, Text, Map, YouTube and iTunes)
  • Open IM clients such as: Skype, AIM, MSN, GTalk and WhatsApp
  • Trigger IFTTT recipes (https://ifttt.com/)

What makes this particular technique so amazing is that it doesn’t rely on the QR code reader being very advanced; all it needs is for the app (be it Skype, Evernote or Candy Crush) to support the scheme and the user to have that app installed

Are QR codes going to become popular all of the sudden, not a chance; but in some cases they could be very useful. Real Estate signs are a great place for QR codes, and they are also perfect for sharing contact information with people (just like my business card.)

If you want to integrate QR codes into to your marketing campaign be careful how and where, observe the tips above and don’t expect loads of people to use them.
Finally, this point needs to be stressed: remember everyone scanning them will be using a phone.


Do you have questions? Leave me a comment, or use the contact page, I’m happy to help to remove any concerns with QR codes.

While you are at it, join my email list: get my new posts right in your inbox.

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