It seems like everywhere you look there’s a QR code waiting to be scanned. If you look at common products you find at the supermarket, you’ll see QR codes all over the place (Proctor and Gamble seem especially obsessed). Are QR codes good for anything, or are they essentially unsightly wastes of space?
We’re not ones to sit on the fence – Here’s the top five reasons why QR codes are mostly worthless.
Nobody has QR Scanners
The first reason why QR codes aren’t particularly useful is that there aren’t that many people with QR code scanners. A lot of people have smartphones, which can scan QR codes, but can only do so with a specialty application, which people only have if they know they want to scan a QR code.
Only 19% of consumers have ever scanned a QR code.
If your customers have to download an app before they can actually scan the QR code, you are putting an unnecessary barrier between them and your marketing material.
It Takes too Long To Scan a QR Code
Let’s say your customers do have a QR code scanner app installed on their smartphone. In order to scan the code they have to open the app, point their camera at the code, wait for it to focus, then wait for the app to recognize what it’s looking at. Scanning QR codes takes a long time.
The supposed benefit of a QR code is to save time. If that’s the case, then one wonders which is actually faster: scanning a QR code or doing a manual web search. In my (highly unscientific) tests they came out about the same. The problem for QR codes is that you need an app, whereas you don’t need an app to search the Internet.
No Information Collection
Besides the time it takes to scan a QR code, there are logical disadvantages for marketers that you should be aware of. The biggest is that scanning a QR code is a one-way transaction. Information goes to the customer, while little actionable information is transmitted back to you.
If you use SMS direct response on the other hand, you can collect the customer’s phone number, which you can use for re-marketing purposes in the future. If you use email, you get their email address, and so on. With QR codes, you get no useful permission to re-engange that customer with future marketing efforts.
This may just be a personal observation, but QR codes aren’t aesthetically pleasing. They don’t really fit in with anything else unless you count a bar code, which is also unsightly.
This is especially a factor when you’re placing the QR code on your website. Where do you put it? It seems no matter where it’s placed it stands out like a sore thumb, which is the last thing you want.
The last strike against QR codes isn’t that people don’t have the ability to use them, or the time it takes to scan one. Instead, it’s the simple fact that most people don’t know what a QR Code is or how to use it.
Ask most people (who don’t work in marketing or technology) what a QR code is and the only thing you’ll get from them is a blank stare.
Any Hope for QR?
In order for QR codes to be useful, they have to become mainstream enough that everyone knows what they are and how to use them. That will propel the major smartphone manufacturers to build in QR code scanning capability into their next smartphones.
Unnless all of those (not too likely) things happen, QR codes will just be an unsightly blemish on the history of the Internet.