QR Readers – What Went Wrong

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November 20, 2012 by Scott Innes

The other day in my online marketing class, the professor asked the class if we knew what a QR code was and if any of us have used it. To my surprise, only 2-3 students knew what a QR code was! This is a classroom full of 4th year marketing students and 90% of the class had never heard of a QR code. Of course they had all seen one once the teacher explained what it was, but hardly anyone had used it. I will explain what went wrong with the QR code and possible techniques that could have helped the technology.

First off, the idea of a QR codes are gold for marketings. They are a direct link from a print ad to an online campaign with a click of a button. Marketers drool over the idea of this technology. However, Mobile Marketing Watch did a study on QR codes and discovered the following statistics:

  • Only 6.2% of consumers have scanned a QR code.
  • As of 2011, only 40% of consumers owned a smartphone (which is needed for QR scanning
  • Many consumers have never heard of a QR code

All these statistics boil down to one problem with QR codes: consumers do not know what they are supposed to do with the codes. I don’t understand why marketing firms didn’t educate the public on how to use this technology. Or, make the technology so important that people had to learn to take advantage.

Business2Community provides an explanation of how firms do/did QR marketing wrong:

  • It goes to your main site
  • Your website is not mobile optimized
  • It’s terribly placed
  • It doesn’t provide value
  • It doesn’t have a call to action

I believe that to biggest fail in QR marketing is the lack of value. People don’t want to pull out their phone, open the QR Reader App, and stand in front of something with their phone in the air just to be linked to more advertisements. That seems to be what happened for QR codes.

I will mention one good QR code placement. I was shopping in a local liquor store after my online marketing class trying to pick out a nice wine. I passed a QR code on a bottle of La Vieille Ferme wine. Interested in the marketing, I pulled out my phone and scanned it. To my surprise, the link did not sell to me (directly). It provided me with tasting notes, winery description and food suggestions. Instead of wasting valuable space on a label with this information, they provided it in an app. Not a bad idea if you ask me. By the way, I did end up buying the wine and it was pretty good.


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