Posted January 5, 2012 2:03 pm by with 6 comments

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QR codes are popping up everywhere. Not long ago, these mysterious patterned squares could be found in an occasional magazine or on a mailer. Now you can find them on grocery displays, packaging, even on bus shelters.

More QR codes must mean more people are using them! Right? Sort of. A new study from Chadwick Martin Bailey shows that people are scanning, but they don’t know what do with the results.

Here’s a visual from Marketing Charts:

I’m part of that top line, too. When QR codes were new, I scanned them all the time. Now, I rarely bother. I find that most codes just lead me to a website that I could have arrived at more easily by typing in the URL. Other than that, I’ve been led to a few recipes and some behind the scenes videos for movies. Nothing thrilling and certainly nothing worth sharing.

I suppose there’s some hope in the fact that 18% of people made a purchase after using a code. I don’t recall this ever being an option on codes I’ve scanned but. . .41% also said they found the information to be “useful.” Which is funny, seeing as most people said they didn’t use this “useful” information.

So what are people expecting when they scan a QR code? Not much. 41% said “more information,” but 46% said they scanned simply because they were curious. Only 16% were looking for exclusive content and that’s a problem. Shouldn’t the information hidden behind a QR code be “exclusive?” QR codes are codes. That implies they hold the secret to a treasure. But why bother if what you access is available to anyone who visits the site online, code or not?

Here’s the most interesting stat from the study. 18% scanned a QR code in order to get a discount, coupon or gift. You can bet that number is low not because people don’t want deals but because brands aren’t using QR codes that way.

I don’t get it. A QR code is the perfect path to an online deal. If I’m going to go through the trouble to pull out my phone, line up the code and scan, then I want something for my efforts. Something tangible, like a B1G1 Free sandwich as my favorite fast food place.

QR code creators, stop sending us to your generic, company website page or presenting me with a recipe I could find anywhere online. Put something truly unique and cool inside those QR codes and become part of the of “shared it” line on the graph, instead of the “I did nothing.”

  • Just read the same study, and I am blown away as well. I believe the issue for QR codes are that nobody knows actually what will be found when scanning it. The proof is in the pudding having 18% scanning a QR to receive special offers or deals, which tells me that companies, who are using QR’s don’t communicate what to expect when scanning it.
    Another issue is that the “actually ugly” QR code does not real leave a lot of branding space. I have written a couple days ago a piece on the comparison of QR codes and SnapTags, which will allow the same outcome, only this time with a real branding face. I have included the direct link to the article here:

    Thank you Cynthia for the post!

    • Cynthia Boris

      This is very true. Now if we could find a way to turn logos into QR codes, that would be something.

  • The education of the public about QR codes is lacking. Just the other day I ran across somebody waving their phone over a package of something and frustrated nothing was happening.

    The issue was quickly resolved by downloading a QR code app. lol I think things like this happen a lot. Other people might be scared the code will give their phone a virus or maybe commit them to a purchase (“What happens if I push this button?” kinda thing).

    I do know what little insight I have came from my own initiative and because someone made appoint acquainting me with QR codes.

  • Today aroud more than half the population are unawre of OR codes and its use.. Public should be educated on this matter.

  • At the moment QR codes are more hype over benefit and in the short term I doubt that much will change.
    The penetration of smart phones to read QR codes on the go is still a bit sluggish but the social and cultural benefits are just not there. I know that the Japanese use them a lot but in the UK technology is used very differently and often not in ways that the IT world would have it.
    Sadly, at the moment, QR codes promise much but deliver little other than yet another marketing message in most cases.
    Until consumers en-masse know what to do with QR codes then they’ll be little more than another gimmick aimed at selling more.

  • I think placing qr codes in magazines is a terrible idea. I chose to read this magazine certain magazine and if I wanted to be on my phone, then I’d be on my phone.