QR Codes – what is their purpose?

QR codes. We’ve been getting a lot of people asking us about them: what they do, how they work and why they should (or shouldn’t) be used.

There seems to be a trend happening of clients wanting to use QR codes, but often not knowing what they are actually used for – mostly just wanting to use them because they’ve seen them used recently on advertising and in the media, and think it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.

QR Code

The thing is, QR codes are really just what they look like: a barcode. The beauty of QR codes is that you can link them to great amounts of information and call-to-actions (eg. purchasing tickets, downloading a voucher), but the failure is that most are under-utilised. QR codes are often found just linking back to a main website, or if they do something more detailed, there are no instructions or enticement to actually scan them. A simple sentence such as “Scan here for more product information:” could make all the difference. Consumers aren’t mind-readers and won’t necessarily scan something that they don’t know what it will provide them.

Accessibility is another issue. To scan a QR code, the consumer needs to find and download an app to scan it, and hope that the scanner can read the QR code (some are better than others). In a survey of college students in 2012, only 21.5% of respondents had success scanning a QR code – the negative responses were that it took too long, tried and gave up, thought taking a photo of the QR code would scan it, and others didn’t want to download the app. I would expect this success rate to change if/when smartphones begin to have QR code readers built in by default…however I’m not sure when that will be.

For those who have access to a QR code reader, only 18.8% show interest in potentially scanning a QR code they see (reference: 2012 QR Code Statistics). When you start to crunch the numbers, this begins to be a very small market of people.

Some tips when using a QR code:

  • Make sure your main offering for your consumers is visible and not hidden within a QR code.
  • Use them to provide further information or a special offer for the curious consumer.
  • Make sure you state what the QR code is there for.

QR codes can be a fantastic tool – just be aware of their limitations and use them wisely.