To QR or Not To QR: 3 Reason People Will Quit Responding to Quick Response Codes
OK marketers, let's talk. You've got to adopt the latest trends and technologies, I understand that. And you've got bosses too, and they want results, and that's fine. I get it. But this QR code thing has gotten way out of hand. Take this for example:
Why should I scan your banana? I don't want to scan your banana. Don't make me scan your banana.
Tech enthusiasts, direct marketers, printers, promotional product manufacturers and everyone else in the entire world is love with QR codes except me. My early adopter friends think I'm crazy, but I maintain that the barcodes are a flash in the pan, and there are three reasons why.
The first is just that: "why?" Why should I scan your code? When Esquire put a QR code on their December 2009 cover it was novel and everyone checked it out, but in 2012 the novelty is gone. No one is scanning unqualified codes. They're littered all over signs, ads, mailers and now my banana, but almost all of them are uninvited, and that oversaturation diminishes any weight they could carry.
Perhaps the biggest crime with QR codes is that most do not include any kind of call to action. They're just there, with no further information or incentive. It's marketing 101: define your value proposition to your customer. QR codes do the opposite, asking for your attention before providing you any reason to give it. They don't answer they question "why," the inspire it.
A second complaint, and one more relevant to promotional products, is aesthetic. Not only are QR codes ugly, but when it comes to imprinted products, they pose real problems. Because it is recommended that you print QR codes in black, you limit decoration options, and because the area needs to be relatively flat, you limit imprint areas. Further, because they have a size requirement (minimum recommendation is 1x1"), you reduce the available size of your client's logo. Mix it all together and you've got a headache on your hands.
Related to style and design, QR codes are almost exclusively scanned via smartphone, meaning the site they lead to will be viewed on a mobile device. Many sites are still not optimized for mobile, or if they are, they may not work with every browser or every OS. This is in no way a fault of the marketers, but is just another wrench in that wrench-machine that's having trouble making wrenches because it has a wrench in it.
Finally, quick response codes simply aren't quick. To scan a code, you need to pull out a phone, load (or download) the QR reader app, scan the code and then go to the site. I realize that isn't actually a long time and that I should be patient because it's going to space, but the fact remains that the it ultimately takes longer than typing a site's address. As a user, QR codes add several extra, unnecessary steps over just printing a URL (which users can remember or write down for later, something impossible with QR codes).
Now to be fair, there are plenty of good arguments and uses for QR codes. For tracking, shipping and labeling they offer superior performance. They're excellent for analytics, and with nearly everyone carrying a QR-reading phone, the audience is limitless. From a user perspective, however, I think the interface, presentation and implementation of QR codes leaves much to be desired.
Of course, I could be wrong. This is solely my opinion and entirely anecdotal. If anyone has had major successes with QR-based promotions, I'd love to hear them. I would love to be proven wrong—I think the technology is cool and I want it to succeed. But in my experience, most QR code promotions are like banana peels, simply getting between the customer and what they want. And we all know where banana peels end up.