A Word to the Wise About QR Codes

In the June 16th issue of The Economist, an article was posted about QR Codes titled, “Square deal – After many false starts, QR codes are finally taking off.” While the article does a fine job defining QR Codes and explaining how they are becoming more and more popular among advertisers, the second to last sentence in the article (“The success of a [QR Code] campaign is easy to measure by the number of scans.”) just does not sit right.

If you are a reader of this blog, you will know that the success of a QR Code campaign, or any print to mobile technology-based campaign for that matter, is based on whether or not the campaign, as a whole, is able to achieve the strategic and/or tactical goals and objectives that were set for it. QR Code scan rates by themselves should not be considered as the only factor to determine success. Factors of success for a QR Code-based campaign can be the same as most any other campaign, such as the number of leads generated, number of products sold, number of requests for additional information, number of social shares, amount of time spent on certain web pages, the speed of response, the geographic location of a response, number of downloads made, number of coupons redeemed, etc., etc.

Compare a QR Code campaign to a direct mail campaign, where the code scan rate equals the the number of direct mail letters that are opened, and it’s easy to see how little scan rate really means in relation to the overall success of a campaign. Consumers can open up hundreds of direct mail letters, but maybe only a dozen take any real or meaningful action. Same with codes. Hundreds of codes can be scanned (i.e., opened), but maybe only a handful of consumers really act on and respond to the message or offer being communicated.

Bottom line, QR Code scan rates are a “nice to know,” but they should not be considered as the sole determinant of overall campaign success.


2 thoughts on “A Word to the Wise About QR Codes

  1. I believe this warrants additional discussion.First, scan rates matter, just as any/every Direct Mail campaign tracks it's results against the Whole.Just as everyone tracks Impressions against clicks. The action/click/scan rate may be low, but it matters – a lot. It is not insignificant as it directly relates to the cost of the media buy. And, the cost of the media buy and ROI is what we all watch.Secondly, nothing "means" success like a high click through, action or scan rate. Nothing gets consumer attention, but more importantly, advertisers attention, than eyeballs.The sad truth is that QR campaigns have not inspired any significant scan rates. Not even for high profile, name brand campaigns (I can name only 1 campaign that received over 1 million scans, in three years of tracking these things). That's pretty sad. Smartphone market share has increased exponentially, QR code use has increased exponentially, but QR scan rates appear flat or are going backwards.Scan rates matter in proportion to Brand perception and agency perception. Had a few campaigns, that included QR, achieved significant consumer interaction, then others may have tried to follow suit and the industry may have matured.Low scan rates should not be trivialized. The fact is that no one is getting good scan rates because no one has produced a mobile campaign, utilizing QR, that has excited the attention of the consumer.The only issue now is whether the window of opportunity to do so has passed? If you could demonstrate good scan rates, you could also mature the industry. Excusing low scan rates as being acceptable won't entice anyone to take the risk that's needed at this point.Unfortunately, you equated QR code usage to Direct Mail (def: "junk mail"). That is probably the category that QR has fallen into. It shouldn't have, but it did.

  2. Anonymous:Thank you for the comments. I do not discount what you are saying entirely, but the importance and meaning of scan rates as a metric versus any others is up to the advertiser. Unfortunately, so few have reported scan rate numbers we are still very much in the dark as to how well some campaigns really perform.

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