BLOG: Are QR codes still useful?
A QR, or quick response, code is a two-dimensional matrix barcode used for storing information, and it is readable by the camera on a smartphone. Essentially, a user would “scan” a QR code through a smartphone application in order to quickly access a URL, video or application.
While they have remained extremely popular overseas in Asian countries, QR codes have definitely fallen to the wayside in past years here in the United States. Today, QR codes are quite the topic for debate — marketers either love them or hate them. But there may be more of a gray area for the “controversial” marketing tactic than we originally thought.
Why don’t people like QR codes?
There are several factors that have led to the “fall” of the QR code. What was initially supposed to be a quick and simple process is a bit more of a time-consuming hassle in reality.
First, it required the user to download a separate application in order to scan a QR code because smartphones do not come with built-in readers. Then you had to open the app and point your camera at the QR code. After scanning, you were often taken to an irrelevant web page that is not even optimized for your smartphone.
QR codes also produce concerns for privacy and security. Because QR codes link everyday products and services to an individual’s smartphones, it raises the issue of tracking and surveillance. Not to mention the possibility of malevolent QR codes spreading malware to your device.
It’s 2017, and the majority of us are more tech-savvy than we were even just a couple of years ago. That being said, most people can easily navigate links and smartphone apps without the need for a QR code.
Additionally, QR codes are not very aesthetically pleasing. They tend to stick out like a sore thumb on your marketing pieces, and it is difficult to incorporate them into a clean, modern design.
Why QR codes are outdated
- They are a gimmick: Advertisers push them on consumers, consumers don’t want to use them.
- You could have just Googled it.
- You have to download an app in order to read them, and apps become outdated.
- No matter what you think, they don’t make your ads more advanced.
- They are a waste of space.
- They confuse the consumer with your “call to action.”
While the above factors have contributed to the perceived obsolescence of the QR code, the biggest responsibility is implementation. The majority of the time, QR codes were used inappropriately. For example, you would see QR codes on the side of buses or on billboards where it was completely impractical to scan. Or you would see them on the subway where oftentimes there is no internet service underground.
Are QR codes making a comeback?
They are creeping back, but in a different way.
- Snapchat is using them currently as a way to quickly add friends. In addition, scan the code and you’re transported to an app-like experience within Snapchat (without the burden of storage and data on your smartphone).
- Spotify, to share songs.
- Venmo, to quickly add a friend for a payment.
- Social media in general, as a quick way to connect.
Don’t write off QR codes completely
There still may be certain places where it makes sense to use QR codes for your practice:
- Brochures, business cards, newsletters, community event displays, etc.
- Can be linked to informational videos, web pages, patient surveys, etc.
- Only if it would be greatly convenient.
- Maybe simplify billing payments.
- Make sure it is trackable.
- The goal should be to take a quick and valuable action.
At Denali Creative, we prefer not to use QR codes unless they are a perfect fit. Think about it: When was the last time you used a QR code? Wouldn’t you have just preferred to Google it?