When QR codes started popping up everywhere, they seemed like a great idea. After all, smartphones were becoming more pervasive by the second, and the little scannable black and white boxes in the windows of small businesses seemed logical, useful, and even a little exciting. They were meant to be the bridge between offline and online marketing. But a bridge is only worth having if people use it to cross over.
And that was the problem: People weren’t using QR codes - at least not to the degree that was expected. Research from 2013 revealed that only 21 percent of American smartphone users reported ever scanning a barcode and only two percent reported doing so on a regular basis. In fact, based on research conducted by Inc in 2012, 97% of consumers didn’t even know what a QR code was.
Yet, despite these lackluster statistics, some marketers are hesitant to let go of the possibilities QR codes contain. Moreover, some digital marketers even reported finding QR codes effective in this 2013 survey from Experian. Some even argue that the problem isn't QR codes themselves, it's that marketers aren't using them correctly. So, do they have a place in your marketing strategy? And if so, what's the secret to a successful campaign driven by QR codes?
When it comes to the effective use of QR codes, purpose and creativity are two key motivators
Take Taco Bell's 2013 Bowl Campaign with ESPN, for example. Over 225,000 Taco Bell customers took the initiative to scan the QR codes prominently featured on their taco boxes and drink cups in order to view exclusive mobile videos previewing upcoming college football games. Historically, QR codes have also produced strong results when tied to contest entries or giveaways.
So, what’s the answer to our question? Are QR codes still relevant? The answer: It depends. Examples like Taco Bell certainly show that QR codes, when done well, still have their place. The combination of the right audience, the right purpose, and a little creativity can work together to prove all the naysayers wrong.
However, even the biggest QR code supporters admit that using QR codes simply for the sake of using them likely won't produce worthwhile results. For instance, as HubSpot suggests, you might be better off simply creating a short and memorable URL to drive your in-person business online. Most smartphone users are more comfortable typing on small touch screens than they were just a few years ago, so entering URLs doesn’t seem like the hassle we once feared it would be. Be sure you have an optimized, mobile responsive website so visitors can easily navigate your site from their mobile devices.