QR codes are used on printed materials, like an ad, to provide a quick link to additional information. The idea is that by using your smart phone's camera capability, you can take a photo, scan the bar code and launch to the Internet for more information -- without having to remember an often complicated URL.
Interesting concept, once that the CueCat (below) pioneered a decade ago, but failed miserably in its attempt.
Now that scan-and-go concept is back, but there are still problems. Apparently there are good QR scanners for iPhone and Android users, but there doesn't seem to be a decent QR scanner for BlackBerry users. I've tried four, and find that with all of them, I've had to try scanning several times before the bar code is decoded and my smart phone's web browser is launched to the correct page. At that point, I'd prefer to have the URL so I can just write it down and enter it the next time I'm at a computer.
Meanwhile, Steve Smith, a contributing writer for MediaPost, has written a worthwhile article for those interested in how to deploy QR codes as part of their marketing. Check out "How Not to Dig a QR Rabbit Hole," but here are a few key points:
- Mike Wehrs, CEO of ScanBuy, told Smith, "Don't create a code and just point to the home page of a [standard] website." I clicked on the QR code for "Midnight in Paris," and landed on the same website I would have found through any search engine. Same for ads for Porsche. I was expecting something more than their home page.
- Wehrs said it's worse when the link is for a standard website that hasn't been optimized for mobile users. Don't forget: most people using a QR scanner are going to access the link from their smart phones -- so the landing page should work for a smart phone user!
- Links from QR codes should add value for the user. Smith Cites Macy's as using QR codes for coupons -- that makes a lot of sense to me.
- Wehrs suggests providing a headline so that users know what to expect. For Home Depot, ScanBuy used the headline "Scan the code for more Martha" to support a Martha Stewart promotion.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that business cards are being transformed or even replaced by QR codes; check out the article here. Two other good Times articles to check out are "Cracking the Q.R. Code" and "Connecting With Clients Through the Power of Tech."