Why QR Codes are Here to Stay
by Hamilton Chan, www.mashable.com
Hamilton Chan is CEO and founder of Paperlinks. With the free Paperlinks iPhone app, featured previously by Apple as the #1 New & Noteworthy app, consumers can scan and view QR code content with a native app experience. Paperlinks also provides a powerful platform for generating QR codes, hosting content and tracking their performance.
If you raise the subject of QR codes among tech early adopters, you are likely to elicit a passionate response. Some people think QR codes, those scanable black and white squares on everything from billboards to product packaging, are on an unstoppable growth trajectory, while skeptics are quick to dismiss them as a fad.
This reaction is common whenever new technology formats or standards are being decided upon. Pundits want to exhibit their knack for predicting the future and stakeholders (of which I am undeniably one) want to make sure their format wins out. The general public, meanwhile, tends to lay in wait for a particular format to show dominance.
QR codes, in particular, make great fodder for debate because the codes are inherently big and ugly. So far, they have not experienced the same popularity in North America as they have enjoyed abroad, in part because many consumers are still getting used to seeing these codes and figuring out what to do with them.
In my opinion, there is little question that these real-world hyperlinks are increasingly going to be part of our reality and everyday life. Although QR codes won’t be the only technological option for hyperlinking in the real world, I believe they’ll soon be recognized as one of the best-suited options to connect items in the physical world to the Internet.
Why Real World Hyperlinking Is on the Rise
If there is one thing that can be counted on in our technological future, it’s that information will continue to become more widespread, available and relevant. The Internet will expand from a network of computers to a network of everything, with interactivity pre-programmed into nearly every object we use.
There’s no doubt that QR code traction in the U.S. is on the rise. Evidence has been shown in a number of recent market reports, including a study by Mobio Technologies Inc., which reported a 9,840% increase in QR code use for the second quarter of 2011 (compared to the same time last year).
Even a recent annual report from Gartner, a market research firm, puts QR codes on the “slope of enlightenment” when it comes to mainstream adoption of the technology. Further adding to the evidence, comScore reported that in June of this year, more than 14 million Americans scanned a QR code, representing more than 6% of the U.S. mobile population.
It may take some time before we switch to scanning objects for information, but this direct relationship between an object’s online persona and the consumer will ultimately make life easier. Run out of razor blades for your shaver? Scan a real world hyperlink on your can of shaving cream and order more blades.
What Skeptics are Saying
Despite the mounting evidence that QR codes are here to stay, many skeptics still believe this technology is no more than a shiny new marketing tool with no future. These are the three arguments I’ve seen repeatedly:
- QR Codes are just a transient technology: It’s true that there are many alternatives to QR codes and, as our world increasingly becomes interconnected, there will be a variety of technology options for businesses to choose from. This assumes that one technology will take over the market. It’s more likely that a suite of options will be available to businesses and marketers seeking to leverage the mobile web. Different applications will demand different technologies, and no single hyperlinking technology will be suitable for every marketing application. The main advantages of the QR code are cost, simplicity and ease of implementation. QR codes provide no incremental cost to an agency already printing or selling ads. QR codes, however, deliver greater engagement, quantifiability and potential mobile commerce opportunities. Alternate technology options (such as Near Field Communication chips) are still a ways off from being as widespread and accessible as QR codes.
- More work with little to no payback: Yes, in order to read a QR code, consumers first need to be able to identify what a QR code is and how it works. They then need to download a QR reader app, if they do not already have one, in order to read the code. Once the code is scanned, however, the potential payback for consumers is vast and limited only by one’s imagination. Whether it’s access to exclusive content, deals, promotions or discounts, companies have a number of options to reward their consumers for scanning.
- It doesn’t solve consumer problems: There are two types of technological innovations: Those that solve consumer pain points in an existing market and those that provide an entirely new approach toward everyday life. QR codes are a new approach that ultimately simplifies the way mobile users can get information. While it’s just as simple to look up information on the mobile web, savvy businesses are realizing that one of the main benefits of a QR code campaign is to provide their mobile customers with instantaneous access to something that is unique and can’t be accessed in another way.
Whether you are a fan or critic of QR codes, one thing is certain: Real world hyperlinks are here to stay. QR codes are just one of the many linking possibilities, but they are popping up everywhere – across all verticals and businesses of all sizes. The popularity of QR codes will continue to gain momentum. Moving forward, the catalyst for their success will ultimately lie in the creative ways they are implemented.
Marketers have the ability to reach their mobile customer base in a way that wasn’t possible before. They need to reward consumers for helping blaze this new trail. The results will be captivating.