QR codes remind me of the 2004 film, Mean Girls, in which the character Gretchen keeps on using this made up word, ‘fetch’ in hopes that she would start a catchphrase. Finally, some screamed at her, “Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch‘ happen!” This is exactly what I want to say to marketers; “stop trying to make QR codes happen!”
In theory, QR codes seem like a great marketing tool – you can easily track data, they are (or were) innovative, the technology is relatively inexpensive, they can provide a great deal of information to consumers, and they require customer interaction. But in practice, most QR codes prove to be a waste of money, time, and resources. According to a survey released by Chadwick Martin Bailey earlier this year, “57% of consumers who have scanned a QR code say they did nothing with the information, compared to 21% who shared the information with someone and 18% who made a purchase.” You don’t need to be an analyst to see that these numbers are not on the side of the QR code. If consumers aren’t using them, then what is the point?
Why aren’t consumers using QR codes? The reasons why could be many: Does the consumer understand this technology? Maybe they don’t like to proactively seek out their marketing (smartphones do not automatically come equipped with a QR code reader, you have to download an app)? Google thinks people are scared for security issues. Or maybe it’s because marketers have fallen on their faces too many times offering consumers useless information via codes (i.e. scanning the code takes you directly to the company’s homepage. Have you heard of a URL?) or they have released QR codes with poor execution and strategy that they have simply become laughable (see all the awful uses of QR codes here: wtfqrcodes.com).
Whatever the actual reasoning may be, the point is, consumers aren’t using them. Yet, it’s hard to turn the corner or the page without seeing a QR code. Even if marketers stepped up their QR code game, which they have (see Scandinavian Airlines‘ or FirstBank‘s initiatives), it seems like the past is working against them. Marketers are going to fight an uphill battle to make these work. Personally, I think it is time to jump the shark (if it hasn’t already been jumped) and move on. QR codes have lost their luster in consumer’s eyes, so marketers, it’s time to take off those sunglasses and see the reality of things.