By now consumers have been inundated with a barcode-esque technology known as QR codes in golf magazines, t-shirts, Facebook profiles, Best Buy store shelves, everywhere online and now on TV thanks to a 4 day experiment being conducted by the Home Shopping Network. What would prompt such a successful enterprise to shove an 8-bit monarch butterfly patterned square in the bottom-right corner of their HD broadcasts? According to Jill Braff, the VP of digital commerce, there is a trend that continues to grow in favor of their customers making purchases from mobile browsers instead of calling in to place orders.
They are watching us on TV and using a mobile device as a faster, more convenient means of checkout. We thought about what if we married the two — what if we allowed people to scan a QR code during a product demonstration, which would bring them directly to that product page on the mobile device?
In their current state, QR codes certainly stand out but not necessarily in a good way according to Matt McKenna, the founder of Red Fish Media. Customization has become a key factor in determining QR codes success as a marketing technology.
They don't have to be ugly and generic anymore — they can be cool. I can't allow my customers to put a black-and-white bar code that looks like digital noise on something that someone's spending millions of dollars on to look beautiful.
A report from comScore said that in June of this year 6.2% of mobile users actually scanned a QR code and that the audience was limited to mostly young males, which doesn't leave much room for anything outside of videogames and gadgets. Andrew Grill, the CEO of PeopleBrowser, explains his reasoning for why usage rates are so low after the break.
Grill pinpoints their problem as being difficult to understand and use unlike some other alternatives available such as shortened URLs.
My fear is that it is simply too complicated for consumers to bother with. There are multiple steps between seeing and recognizing a QR code, finding a suitable reader on an app store or Web site, installing it, then redeeming a code.
HSN seems to realize this as well because part of their experiment is to explain how QR codes can be used by their viewers. This is also one of the challenges that Square, Amex and others are trying to overcome to get the mobile payment adoption rates up.
Now that QR codes have made their debut on almost every major media platform except radio and more companies are buying into the technology, it will be interesting to see if and how QR codes will find a way to be an asset to consumers instead of something that is largely ignored.