TO QR CODE OR NOT TO QR CODE — that is the question.

This entry was posted on November 21, 2011 by Greg

I have been waiting for QR codes to catch on for some time… so far they have been less than impressive. They seemed to be a lot of work initially. First I had trouble finding a good application for reading the codes on my Blackberry. Then the camera didn’t scan very well, and I found that the content was generally difficult to view on my small screen.

It seemed clear that until there was wide adoption of smart phones with affordable data plans; QR codes were just not going to catch. Well, that was about 18 months ago and now everyone has a smart phone… even my kids have them. And of course, now I’m seeing QR codes everywhere.

The latest smart phones have bigger screens, and most come equipped with preinstalled barcode readers. They also have much better cameras for scanning, and carriers have better data plans. Unfortunately I’m still not impressed.

So what’s my problem?

It’s not the hardware or the carriers now… it’s you, the marketer that is going to cause the demise of the 2D barcode. They are not being used very well and if marketers continue to misuse them, consumers will surely lose interest.

I went out and got an iPhone about a month ago and decided to scan every 2D barcode I saw in my normal course of life. I scanned codes in the newspaper and a magazine or two, on my postal mail and even on a few signs. The result was, nearly everyone used the QR code to link to a simple web page. This is fine, of course, except that in almost all cases it was linked to the home page of the company’s website. Even worse, it was to the desktop version which is very difficult to read on a mobile device.

So I suppose you are saying to yourself, “What’s wrong with that?” and the answer is… It’s easier to just type the URL into my smart phone browser directly! Unfortunately, I won’t know that until I scan your code, expecting to find something clever or useful only to be taken to your home page. You’ve failed!

So the lesson to be learned here is NOT to use a 2D barcode as a “gimmick.” Use it as a tool or not at all.

Here are some simple QR code/mobile tips to improve your user’s experience and most likely, your conversion rate:

1. Convert your HTML pages to a mobile-friendly format so the text can be easily read.

2. The design and content should be an extension of your ad…not a general home page.

3. Make the navigation clear and the buttons large enough to click on a mobile device.

4. Keep your inquiry forms simple and short.

5. Test your pages on several of the popular devices before launching.

Remember, effective use of QR codes makes it easier for your audience to respond to you. Linking to an HTML page is not the only use of QR codes… they can also be used to create an email message, an SMS message or to easily view a video.

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