You’ve seen them. They’re everywhere. Those squiggly 2-D bar codes placed alongside ads that encourage you to whip out your cell phone and snap them – promising to transport you to some place where you can learn more about the product at hand. QR (quick response) codes promise to let advertisers use any flat surface from magazines to billboards to serve as your magical transport host.
But have you ever actually followed one? You’re not alone. According to Forrester Research, only about 5% of American consumers scanned a QR code during a three month period in 2011.
On the other hand, and tellingly, nearly 20% made a purchase after scanning one of these codes, according to research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey. And the numbers are rising. So, while advertisers might really be onto something, they’re stuck with a largely passive audience. Forrester in its research came up with four obstacles to broader adoption of QR codes (as noted in an article in the March ’12 issue of CRM Magazine):
- Many consumers don’t know what QR codes are or how to use them
- They require users to download a separate application to their phones
- There are no standards for codes and readers, and…
- Content is often disappointing, frequently only taking consumers to company websites
Most of these obstacles will fall naturally as consumer awareness grows, and as cell phones come equipped with the necessary software already installed. But to achieve broader adoption, the codes will also need to be more relevant to both consumer and marketer. Taking users to interactive, multimedia content is the logical answer. Forrest Analyst Melinda Parrish suggests that marketers first determine their goals… then use consumer behavior to determine placement of QR codes, ensure value and a good user experience that delivers compelling content, and start with low expectations.
As the web gets more mobile, these codes can act as links bridging the physical and digital worlds, and open new channels for content delivery and the opportunity for a sort of one-to-one dialogue.