To QR or not to QR?
12th Apr // 2012 - This post is archived and may no longer be relevant
While QR (Quick Response) Codes are becoming more common, espcially in advertising, new research suggests that around two thirds of consumers may not know what they are. The two dimensional bar codes (as opposed to the 1D linear barcodes) were developed for the automotive industry in 1994. Like most things, it's taken a while for them to be picked up for mass market use. A consumer can scan a QR code with a smart phone (assuming they have a barcode reader) and they are taken to a specific web page with more information about what they have scanned.
Although two thirds of consumers (according to an online survey of 794 respondents carried out by Simpson Carter) do not know what they are, it does mean that one third of consumers do - and that is probably a good critical mass to consider using QR codes.
The codes can be linked to advertising or individual products (see our blog post on their use by Oxfam in Manchester). While the codes themselves are quite new, there is more and more information about how to use them. Businesses considering using QR codesshould provide information about how they should be used and also provide a direct url link for users who do not have smartphones. Depending on the information, also consider other ways to make contact such as short SMS codes.
It is also important to spend some time designing the appropriate web pages and content, obviously to be viewed on smartphones. As bar code readers are not that common yet, it's always a good idea to include them in Apps so a user does not have to hunt around for a code reader. You can also include instructions. The most important thing is to give consumers a reason to scan the code - the most obvious is a way to save money. However you can be creative and simply offer more information or something more interactive. There have been examples of shops using QR codes in windows so users can be directed to that product online so a purchase can be made even if the shop is closed. The hotel group Radisson Edwardian has used QR Codes on its restaurant menus so a user can link to a video of their dish being prepared. They also encourage users to check in using Foursquare by offerring an extra two hours on their checkout time. As with most things, it is a fine line deciding if at all to use QR codes and how much to spend on them - but they do seem to be here to stay for some time at least.
This was first published on our blog in October 2011.