QR Codes: The Future

QR Codes: The Future

The Future of Marketing Is Mobile, But QR Codes Are Lagging Behind…

These days, the digital industry is flooded with headlines, reports and statistics detailing how mobile marketing is poised for unprecedented growth in the near future. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has kept a close eye on digital business, and it is much more than mere idle speculation.

As an example, a Marketing Sherpa benchmark survey recently polled marketers on the emerging importance of mobile in their current and future strategies. Not surprisingly, building mobile websites and landing pages topped the responses. Mobile email marketing and mobile apps were close behind in third and fourth place.  This all makes sense because, as smartphones become more and more pervasive in their market penetration, these tactics are undoubtedly becoming more and more essential for most businesses looking to reach consumers.

But what sticks out from the above poll, however, is that the third most common response shows that as many as 47% of marketers are planning to use QR codes in the next six months.

This raises a few important questions. Are marketers actually seeing a demand for QR codes? Are QR codes set to be as significant a component of the future of mobile advertising as this survey suggests?

Re-examining the Role of QR Codes

Although invented as early as the mid 1990’s, QR codes have really only begun to spread like wildfire in the retail and marketing sector over the past few years. With that being said, when they did begin to catch on they caught on big. As the craze gathered steam, marketers rushed to add QR codes to seemingly all marketing collateral, from print advertising to product packaging. Brands like Chiquita have even experimented with putting codes on banana’s.

But while QR codes are a great medium for engaging customers via their mobile smartphones, they’re decidedly underwhelming in terms of user adoption and experience. eMarketer published a study in July which discovered that, in the US market, as few as 9% of all adult respondents had ever used a QR codes.  There are a few reasons why this may be the case, but a strong possibility is that the user experience of most QR code executions remains quite poor and that many businesses have not yet figured out how to effectively distinguish between good QR code strategies and poor ones.

Another good insight (albeit anecdotal) comes from a recent analytics & optimization class I was teaching at Seneca College in Toronto. In a class where discussion had turned to mobile marketing, I asked my students how many of them had scanned a QR code before.  Approximately 60% of the hands went up in response. I then asked how many of them had done it once, but had not scanned another QR code since. Surprisingly, the same number of hands went up. This experience drove home a potentially trenchant reality concerning the perspective many Canadians likely have towards mobile QR code marketing: worthy of experimentation, perhaps, but still far from being an established behavioural habit.

 Nevertheless, there is still reason to applaud marketers and agencies for experimenting with new approaches to mobile advertising. In order for the industry to grow, innovative businesses will have to fail with new mobile marketing technology many times to discover the next, best tool to reach smartphone savvy consumers. As a case in point, this fall mega-retailer Walmart put QR codes to a genuinely interesting purpose as a key component of its “virtual toy store” in downtown Toronto. Commuters and passers-by were able to use their smartphones to scan codes off of a wall display.  They could then either shop for products directly or be taken to Walmarts eCommerce portal – all from a remarkable app that lived solely within their mobile device.

Wallmart’s virtual pop-up store in downtown Toronto during the fall of 2012 gave commuters the unique opportunity to shop, on the go, via their smartphones. This kind of bold initiative is the future of mobile marketing and retail.
This kind of idea, more than anything else, represents the kind of brave, creative and ambitious marketing that will, through trial and error, push technology, business and retail to the next level. Technology such as QR codes may yet have a long way to go, but finding new and innovative ways to drive engagement, sales and word of mouth with mobile technology should certainly be at the forefront of every mobile-minded business leader’s mind.  It’s an exciting time to be a mobile marketer.

To view the original article by Ali Shah at Dx3 Digest, please click here.