Death by QR code…
Quick Response (QR) codes have predominantly been used in advertising with the intention of enabling the consumer to discover additional information about the campaign via their smartphone.
It has, however, not gone without notice that a large number of campaigns have used QR codes in a very dubious manner, as my commute yesterday painfully reminded me…
Yesterday I was waiting for the tube when a very large advert opposite the platform caught my eye (see above). It showcased a safari holiday, a picture of adventure and bliss. With the second snowfall of February looming, it was certainly a strong enticement for Londoners to escape their winter blues. Even better, there was a QR code in the bottom corner of the advert. Superb, a chance to find out the information behind that picture of the seductive safari holiday, which would potentially coerce me into booking on the spot.
In a flash of excitement I pulled out my smartphone and tapped open my QR scanner. Slight problem, the QR code across the other side of the tracks was so tiny it wouldn’t scan. So I moved a little closer. No joy. A couple steps more, and still, no joy. Before I knew it I was precisely where I shouldn’t be, on the wrong side of the yellow line attracting the attention of a handful of worried commuters. I realised I was experiencing a perfect example of bad sizing and placement of QR codes. The QR code was so small that to successfully scan it I would have had to cross the tracks. Plus, even if the QR code was large enough, what commuter has time to stop and scan a QR code between stampedes and train movements?
The size of the QR code aside, the volume of QR codes on the underground has long baffled me. The majority of QR codes require an internet connection to take the smartphone owner to the website holding the extra information, a requirement incompatible with our largely 3G free underground.
This particular usage of QR code is unfortunately also a perfect example of “isolated QR code syndrome”. Being a self-admitted mobile technology geek, I see a QR code and instinctively know what to do. However, the graphic matrix does not scream ‘scan me’ to everybody. Some instruction is required, not just to tell the reader to scan the code, but also to let them know what will happen when they do. Will they be directed to the brand’s mobile website? Will they be directed to download an app? Information is key.
It is my opinion that QR codes are not effective in the majority of cases, due to poor implementation, and are for a large proportion, unnecessary. What’s more, until QR scanning functionality becomes preinstalled natively across all devices, customers are expected to download an app to even have the potential scan the QR code.
QR scan functionality built within branded apps are much more effective. Here the purpose is easily identifiable, the customer is aware of what will happen when the scan is made, and the action is seamlessly controlled and contained within the app.
A perfect example is the much talked of Tesco Homeplus app in Korea, which enables smartphone users to shop by scanning QR codes accompanying pictures of products. These virtual stores have been so successful that they have now expanded from the subway in Seoul to bus shelters in cities across Korea. The purpose is clear, the action is simple.
To conclude this tale of near death by QR code, the most important consideration when implementing a QR code into a campaign is to consider the customer journey. Is the QR easily scanned? Is there internet connection to take the consumer to the target portal? Is the customer made aware that they need to scan the code? Does the customer know how to scan the code? Does the customer know what will happen when the scan is made? And finally, what extra benefit does the QR code serve to the campaign above displaying a website link?
Safe scanning everyone.