By: Hannah Brown
Just a few years ago, QR codes, or Quick Response codes, seemed to be everywhere. From shop windows to magazine and newspaper advertisements, you could always find the distinct black and white squares trying to connect the physical and digital worlds. Business owners and marketers began using them in many places, concluding that people always have their smartphones nearby to open the codes.
However, they did not become as popular with consumers as predicted.
A study conducted from 2011 to 2013 found that only 21% of American smartphone owners had ever scanned a QR code, and just 2% said they scanned one at least once per day. The study also compared the number of mobile subscribers to QR codes against the number of smartphone users over 2 years (see graph below), and found that while the number of smartphone users has significantly increased, the number of QR code users had virtually plateaued implying a shrinking proportion of QR code users.
Why are QR codes “out of style”?
- Consumers don’t know how to use them. A study conducted in 2012 found that 97% of consumers don’t even know what a QR code is. Because QR codes have been poorly adopted in the United States and haven’t properly broken out of the tech-savvy crowd, the correct way to use them isn’t very widely known. Additionally, marketers and businesses do not give instructions on how to employ QR codes, so users tend to ignore them.
- They require too much effort. Consumers must download an app or open passbook, take a picture of the code, and finally, navigate to the website or location. If they decide to make the effort, consumers are most often disappointed with what they receive. Once a user has a negative experience with a QR code, they do no tend to use them again.
- The purchase decision is made prior to the QR code scan. Most users have already arrived in a store or doctor’s office with the intent to buy already. They would rather read about deals on a poster or flyer than have to scan a code to learn more.
What is an alternate solution to QR codes?
A marketer or business should lock down a short, unique and memorable URL by using sites like Bitly.com. Most consumers do not have issues typing a URL into their mobile browser, especially if it is unique to the business allowing your brand to be as visible as possible.