Indiscriminately placing QR codes without proper planning on the part of marketers has led to dismal usage by consumers. Understanding the behavior of the consumer is crucial to saving the QR code from extinction - but is it too late?
Editor's note: Edmund M. Jessup is an academic librarian at the New York Institute of Technology's Manhattan campus. He can be reached at email@example.com. This article appeared in the November 11, 2013, edition of Quirk's e-newsletter.
We see them everywhere - those little pixelated boxes. The marketing and advertising world has a love affair with QR codes and why wouldn't they? QR codes offer a way for advertisers to take readers from one medium (in-person) to another (digital). For magazines, the codes provide a way to track eyeballs on ads and prove the value of advertising. QR codes are also cheap in comparison to developing a proprietary app. Unfortunately, these little boxes are better in theory than in practice, as the actual method in which marketers use QR codes could very well be their downfall.
The QR phenomenon is arguably quite trendy, making marketers feel that if they don't participate, they'll be left behind. But consumers haven't caught on to the trend in the same way. The dismal reception of QR codes by consumers may be due to a variety of circumstances, including consumers not knowing how to scan them; marketers placing them indiscriminately; little uniformity regarding the scanning apps available; and the dearth of useful and pertinent information once at the landing page. Additionally, the increased prevalence of introducing a virus or malware to a device as a result of scanning a QR code could be a growing factor in why some may choose not to scan.
Understand the dynamics
It's one thing to put a QR code on an ad, poster or direct mail piece but it's another to understand the dynamics behind consumer scanning behavior. But that raises yet another issue. With all the companies that create data surrounding the scanning of these codes, there's no consensus on what motivates a consumer to take action. So what's a marketer supposed to do?
Remember the consumer. Consumer behavior is one of the foundations upon which a good marketing and advertising campaign is built. Trying to understand why a consumer would scan and who the intended target audience is should be the cornerstone of using QR codes as a marketing tool. The data do show that consumers who scan QR codes are motivated mostly to get a coupon, discount or deal and to access additional information. The biggest scanners of QR codes at the moment are males ages 35-to-54, in addition to being smartphone users with above-average education and income. Marketers should be a bit more judicious about where and why a QR code should be placed to reach the ideal audience.
Success or extinction?
So what does the future hold for QR codes? Success or extinction? Creating a successful marketing campaign requires thought and planning. Indiscriminately putting QR codes in places and on products without considering the consumer is bad practice and has hurt the potential of QR codes as an effective marketing tool. Marketers should be a bit more judicious about where and why a QR code should be placed. Taking into account why a QR code should be placed somewhere and what benefit it provides may save the QR code from extinction - or at least from becoming an unnecessary mark on a package or a page that goes unnoticed by consumers.
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