Are You Developing With QR Codes?

Scanning QR Code Amy Goodman ArtWe’ve seen a lot of talk about QR (quick response) codes in recent years. Those curious looking square “bar codes” show up on posters, on products, and on billboards. You just whip out your Internet-connected smart phone, make a quick scan, and instantly have all kinds of useful information at your fingertips.

Well…sort of.

A recent article on AdAgeDigital titled, “Why Marketer Love for QR Codes Is Not Shared by Consumers,” points out that only about 5% of Americans use the codes (as of July 2011). According to the story, consumers think the codes are too hard to scan and offer too little useful information.

Some people believe Japanese consumers are moving away from QR codes. Matt Swain on the InfoTrends blog made his own little informal survey of QR codes during a recent visit to Japan. He noticed that many Japanese advertisements have switched from using QR codes to using search keywords to help consumers find an advertiser’s site.

This strikes me as odd, because entering a handful of keywords in Google just isn’t that productive on my Samsung Galaxy S smartphone. Typing in any URL over ten characters is tedious and error prone. It’s the same for typing in three to five keywords, which may or may not get me to the right website. Couple that with a sluggish mobile data connection for a truly frustrating Internet search session.

Certainly a QR code can contain a company website URL. Denso Wave Inc. has an interesting little QR code info site. Did you know that you can embed up to 7089 characters in a single QR symbol? That’s about 1,012 words (divide 7089 characters by the average of seven characters per word). So far, what you’ve read in this blog post has been a little less than 300 words.

We could embed a regular-sized tech article in a QR code!

Now, of course, there are funny stories about QR codes not working because it’s hard to scan a billboard when your commuter train is zooming by at 60 miles per hour. Or, it might be difficult to scan a QR code in a subway or an elevator, when you don’t have WiFi or cell network access. Obviously, QR codes are not a cure-all.

I still think they have a lot of useful applications and would love to hear your perspective.

  • Have you found them productive in your mobile schemes?
  • Have your customers embraced or rejected them?
  • Do you think they are worth the effort?
  • What have been your challenges to implementation?
  • Where have you used them successfully?
  • Have you had any interesting flops…that you’d care to share?
  • What are you using instead of QR codes?

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