I predict QR Codes are the next dinosaur of marketing. QR or 'quick response' codes are matrix barcodes that hold information that can be read with a QR scanner or smart phone camera. The information received can be as simple as a company's address or as complex as a web link to product details, photos, and videos. They look like the stamp on the lemon in the image above.
If you Google QR Code, there are pages of articles overflowing with ways to take advantage of QR Codes for interactive, business-to-consumer applications.
But based on what people are saying in research conducted by my firm, User Insight, there are several significant barriers to QR Code success:
1. No one understands QR Codes.
Our research finds that 97% of consumers don't know what a QR Code is. On top of that, most consumers are unsure which app to use to read a QR Code, or how to search for an app to read one. If they do figure out to search the term 'QR Code' in the iPhone App Store, they will get more than 100 search results--and no clear front runner.
2. They require too much effort.
I often see QR Codes on display in big box stores as an attempt to provide more information about a product. Customers must then download an app, take a picture of the code, then navigate through a website or other resource to learn more. That's too much burden and too many steps! We are an instant gratification society.
3. The purchase decision is made before encountering a QR Code.
Our research says consumers often arrive at a store with a decision to buy already made. At that point, it's too late for detailed research, the kind they'd find with QR Codes. They'd rather read the type of content provided by QR Codes on larger screen devices than mobile phones anyway.
4. The result isn't worth the effort.
With QR Codes, customers rarely know what they are going to get once they make the effort to use one. In fact, in our studies, they tell us thy are disappointed with what they receive. By contrast, most apps have a known reward system: access to reviews and recommendations, coupons or points.
5. One bad QR Code impacts all others.
Once burned by a bad QR Code experience, every other QR Code a consumer comes into contact with is suspect. Another company's bad implementation of a QR Code will hurt yours.
Given all this, does a QR Code ever make sense? Yes. QR Codes work well for one-off, consumer-to-business interactions where the consumer directs the flow of information. For instance, they are successfully implemented as a mobile airline boarding pass, coupon, or alternate payment method. The app creates the QR Code and the purpose is clear to the consumer.
QR Codes are also appropriate for a highly-engaged user group to collect points or clues toward a goal. Only those who are fanatically engaged with your brand, or participating in an event or conference, are going to take the time to play along.