Why Aren't QR Codes More Popular?

Matcha Design - Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A few years back, we wrote an extensive six-part blog series about how QR codes work. For a while, QR codes seemed like the explosive new advertising technology, and you can still see them on the occasional fast food cup or pizza box. But despite the obvious advertising benefit of a code that users can just point their phones toward to get an automatic link to a website, they've never really seemed to get enough traction to live up to their potential. A 2013 survey found only 21% of American smartphone owners say they've ever scanned a QR code, and just 2% say they scan a QR code at least once per day.

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Maybe QR codes were ahead of their time, maybe they were overused, or maybe people are scared of confusing square designs. But the greatest hurdle for the QR code business is the lack of standardization. For example, any smartphone comes with built-in utilities, like a Web browser, a stock tracker, a weather app, etc. But until very recently that wasn't true about a built-in QR code scanner, and even then, the scanners are pretty well hidden; in iOS 7 it can be found within the Passbook app, while the Android version is hidden within the Google Now experience. The diversity of QR software makes it difficult to standardize the experience of following a QR code to a landing page.

QR code apps also tend to be inundated with advertising. In a previous post we mentioned the unfortunate practice of "app hijacking," where a small useful app gets bought out by advertisers and then loaded with adware. Many free QR code apps have fallen prey to this scheme.

Many advertisers were so eager to leap into this exciting new technology that they didn't give themselves time to ensure that their own websites were mobile ready. Scanning a QR code which leads to a website that is not optimized for the device they use to scan it is a quick and easy way to turn people off for good. People use QR codes to take action directly, so don't make them jump through hoops, pinching, zooming and navigating through a messy desktop site.

The other major factor that determines a QR code's success is its practical use. While many marketers love the idea of using QR codes for brand promotion, the QR codes that perform best are the ones that offer consumers a benefit for scanning. This means providing a discount, special offer or inclusion in some sort of exclusive program in order to provide customers a return on investment for their time. Of course, clever marketers can find plenty of ways to provide a reward for scanning while still integrating plenty of branding as well.

Fixing the QR code shortcomings will not be easy. If the producers of QR scanning technology can finally realize the benefit of standardization, then the businesses that dominate with QR promotions will be the ones that open their eyes to what can and will be done. We at Matcha Design are full of good ideas regarding QR codes and other leading-edge technology. Give us a call today and let us help you market your business in this exciting mobile world.

About Matcha Design
Matcha Design is a full-service creative agency specializing in web designprintidentitybrandinginterface designvideo productionstill photography and motion design. Using our passion for excellence, multi-cultural background, and award winning practices, we consistently provide high-quality, custom, innovative solutions to meet the diverse marketing needs of our clients. For more information, visit www.MatchaDesign.com.