In a recent article called “Why QR Codes Will Go Mainstream,” Mashable referred to these quizzical little boxes as “the shortest distance between curiosity and information retrieval.” Very poetic.
The author of the piece suggests that QR codes are likely to become the commonplace connector between all things offline and online. He points out the fact that the code is open-source and freely available for use, that adding it to a magazine page doesn’t cost extra and that the rise in smartphone usage makes them accessible to more people every day.
All of this is true, but there’s one big downside to QR codes that I think will keep them from becoming mainstream; they don’t mean anything when you look at them. They’re cool and for folks who love puzzles, they’re enticing, but for the average person flipping through a magazine, they’re an out of focus eye chart.
We do need a way to make offline links clickable but why does it have to be done with a graphic that holds no information for the human eye? Why can’t we have a code that looks like an image or has text but is still readable by a smartphone?
I’m sure that if enough advertisers invest enough time and money in QR codes, they could catch on. As Mashable says, the payoff is the key. Right now, many codes return information that could have printed on the magazine ad and that’s bad use of technology. What we need is to find a reward that is worth the effort, like exclusive content, a deep discount or a free sample. Even still, without an image pulling you in, it’s going to take time before consumers feel the need to crack a QR code when they see one.
What do you think? Do you use QR codes as a consumer or marketer? We’d like to hear about your experience.