How Apple And Google Could Make QR Codes Mainstream – My Reply

Just came across this article, which appeared on Tech Crunch over the weekend, and it makes me laugh. Laugh not because it would be great that Apple and/or Google help to propel QR Codes (or any other print to mobile based technology for that matter) into the mainstream, but because the logic is just so off.

Below is the article in its entirety, my comments are in bold.

How Apple And Google Could Make QR Codes Mainstream

By Brenden Mulligan
Saturday, September 1st, 2012

QR codes are everywhere. Frustratingly everywhere in my opinion. Countless companies put them on marketing materials, but not a single person I know actually scans them. I’m friends with lots of smartphone owners, and I’ve literally never, ever seen someone pull out their phone and scan a QR code.

There are even a handful of startups that consider QR codes part of their core offering to small businesses. They’re relying on people actually scanning these stupid things for their products to work. Silly.

2DBS: Mr. Mulligan, since when are “things” stupid and to what are you referring to when you say “for their products to work?” I digress, please keep reading. 

However, as negative as I am about them, QR codes actually make a lot of sense. One of the most challenging things about the gluttony of digital offerings is bridging the gap between the digital and physical world. Mobile devices present the opportunity to do this better than ever. If I’m standing at a store, and they want me to follow them on Twitter, mobile devices allow me to follow them immediately, as opposed to waiting until I get home to do it.

QR codes simplify it even more. It’s much easier for me to scan a code and have it take me directly to their Twitter page than have to type in their username. Or even better, if I get a reward for taking a digital action, like filling out a survey, it’s easier to get me to the survey with a scanned code than giving me a URL to enter.

But in my opinion, up to this point QR codes have been an overall failure mostly because I don’t feel like the majority of people use them.

2DBS: Mr. Mulligan, because you “don’t feel like the majority of people use them” is the reason for the “overall failure” of codes has got to be the most ridiculous comment I have yet to hear regarding the success and/or failure of QR Codes. Did you even think before writing that sentence? Let me clue you in on something…QR Code technology works and has worked in a wide variety of applications, situations and locations for years, read that again, for years. Any failure in relation to the code resides with the company and/or individual that stands behind the code (e.g., the advertiser) People, by which I assume you mean consumers, either scan codes or they don’t. Consumers are not to blame for the overall failure, or success, of codes, the advertisers are.

When asking around about why friends don’t use QR codes they claim they don’t have a way to scan them, even though doing a search for “QR scan” in Apple’s app store returns over 500 results.

If the problem is that people don’t have scanners installed, one straightforward solution would be for Apple and Google to include a standalone QR Code app with iOS and Android. Then at least most people with smartphones could scan the code without having to download another app. But I’m not convinced this would solve the problem. Asking someone to launch a specialized app to complete a task is asking for a change in behavior that most users probably aren’t willing to do.

Another solution is to fix the problem by using another technology, like location gating or NFC. But implementation of both of these would be costly and difficult. It would obviously never make sense for a business to embed NFC chips in every coffee cup they sell, and marketing materials are not always associated with just one location.

So what’s the ideal solution, assuming the goal is to get people to actually use these codes? My suggestion would be to make the camera software just a little bit smarter.

To truly take QR codes to the mainstream, Apple and Google should actually build a scanner into the camera logic. Similar to how the camera senses how much light there is, or if a picture is in focus, it could scan whether or not a QR code was in the frame. This would essentially turn your camera into a constant QR scanner.

If a QR code happens to be in the frame, a message would pop up asking if you’d like to follow the link. If you hit ignore, QR codes would be ignored until the next time you launch the app. No separate app, no new behavior. Just an extension of existing behavior. And of course, you could always turn this off in settings.

Probably not as simple to implement as it seems, but think of the implications.

Imagine how different this experience would be for consumers. Instead being told “Scan this code with a QR Code Scanner app on your phone”, the user would be told “Take a photo of this!” That experience would make so much more sense to 90% of users. Open camera, point phone at code, get sent where you need to go.

2DBS: Mr. Mulligan, you really must not be thinking straight. “Open camera, point phone at code get sent where you need to go.” How different is that than “Open QR Code reader app, point phone at code, get sent where you need to go.”? What step(s) are you saving? Why people bring up the app issue is beyond me? Does having to go to the app store to search, find, download and install a banking app, a calendar app, a game app, a weather app, a newspaper’s app, etc., etc., really any different than doing the same in regard to a code reader app? No, it isn’t. And, once the app is installed the “argument” goes out the window.  

Simple. It might make having these codes all over the place actually worthwhile.

2DBS: Once again, someone seems to dislike QR Codes, to only like them, to only dislike them. Make up your mind. Bottom line, the effectiveness of a QR Code is based on how it is presented to a consumer, full stop. If there is value, benefit, relevance, meaning, purpose, and perhaps some creativity, behind a code then it will be scanned, or at least it has a reason to be scanned. Anything less than that and only the company behind the code has themselves to blame. Let’s stop finding fault with the technology and start finding fault with ourselves (i.e., marketers, creatives, developers, etc.). 

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One thought on “How Apple And Google Could Make QR Codes Mainstream – My Reply

  1. Thanks for posting this. We've had a few customers send us requests for making them QR codes. I must say I found it quite easy to create one AND to scan it (although it's a bit tricky on my older Nokia).

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