Getting things wrong…
How I wrongly predicted the death of the QR Code
About four years ago, give or take, I had a conversation with a colleague and remember authoritatively stating that the QR Code was dead. Old tech. Had it’s day. We had been using QR codes for a few years at that point, usually on packaging to link to online instruction manuals in multiple languages, rather than printing the manuals. It was an elegant solution that reduced costs, and the amount of paper used.
We also used them in the way that they are most commonly used – on posters and point-of-sale – to direct users to a website. But we found, when we looked at the data, they simply weren’t being used much.
When a client suggested we used QR Codes on a customer promotion they were sending out, we were sceptical. The main problem was that, until fairly recent versions of both Android and iOS, you had to download an App to view a QR Code. And that was just a pain. And, because they’d been around a while, and people had got used to seeing them, and ignoring them. Other technologies such as RFID and NFC seemed to be poised to take over where QR Codes had failed.
COVID 19 Changed Everything.
In more ways than one, obviously. But it effectively resurrected the QR Code. When the pandemic began spreading, QR codes began to be used as a “touchless” system to display information, show menus, or provide updated consumer information, especially in the hospitality industry. Restaurants replaced paper or laminated plastic menus with QR code table sticker, which opened an online version of the menu. This reduced the need to sanitize menus after each use, or of printing single-use paper menus.
With the introduction of the “Track, Test & Trace” system by the UK Government, people started using QR Codes to ‘check in’ at shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, IMHO the rollout of this was inconsistent and muddled, and a huge opportunity was missed. But, people got used to interacting with QR Codes again, and recently I have seen them appearing on print Ads and posters, and ever TV Adverts (not sure about that), in ever greater numbers.
So, when should you use a QR Code?
When it makes it easier for a customer to interact with your brand. Simple as that. If you save them keying in a long and complicated URL. If you want to take them to specific page on your site. If you want them to have access to more information. You can take a user straight to a registration form for an event, for instance. And you can pre-fill certain fields, depending on where they scan the QR Code (for instance, if you run your ad in two different publications, you can have a different QR code in each, and track the response rates from each).
Other than sending customers to a specific web page, QR Codes can be used in other innovative ways, for example;
- Logging-in to Wifi network
- Displaying Multimedia or Augmented Reality Content
- Virtual Stores – Scan the Code, and get the product delivered to your home
- Website Log-ins – When a log-in page is displayed on a computer, you can scan the QR Code on your smartphone to authenticate your identity
QR Codes have also been used on gravestones, to track product journeys, and detect counterfeit goods. so, maybe I was a little premature in my prediction of their demise.
So, when should you NOT use a QR Code?
On a website, where a simple button, or hyperlink will suffice. I’ve been asked to do this, by a client, because QR Codes are ‘cool’. Hmm. making your customer use a second device to take a photo of your web page when they could just click a button? Not cool.