QR Codes: Fad or Fixture?

Mobile marketing is on fire. As more consumers turn to their smartphones to connect to the internet and engage brands marketers have responded by introducing more and more targeted marketing efforts at a mobile audience. In fact mobile marketing has become so hot that Forrester Research projected mobile marketing investments to surpass $1 billion in 2011 alone.

Facebook QR Code
There are many different types of mobile marketing, but one of the most popular tactics is QR codes. QR codes are simply those two-dimensional barcodes that store a significant amount of data. That data can then be scanned or captured using software called QR code readers and called up on an internet ready device.

The primary advantage to QR codes is that they can store an incredible amount of data in a small space. QR codes can supply customers with loads of information that otherwise would have been obtrusive or impossible to share.

The primary opportunity is that QR codes can represent a bridge between a company’s print and digital advertising efforts. QR codes help to take one-dimensional print ads and turn them into a dynamic experience by offering the consumer hands on access to additional information and discovery.

For example, Cook Wheelwright previously created a QR code campaign for a real estate agency that allowed the realtor to place QR code stickers on the signage and in the windows of homes the agency represented.  This allowed walk up traffic to access a webpage that contained all the information they required including the MLS listing, photo galleries of the interior and yard, and the ability to schedule an appointment with the realtor to view the home. The sheer magnitude of the QR code opportunity makes it an extremely attractive marketing avenue.

The main disadvantage of QR codes is that they’re not accessible to everyone. Everyone you know might have a smartphone by now, but smartphones only account for 62% of cell phone sales in U.S. There is a signification portion of the population that does not have the capacity to receive QR code marketing even if they wanted.

Furthermore, in order to unlock the data stored in a QR code, consumers must have previously installed 3rd party software on their mobile devices that enables them to read QR codes. Without this software, they’re as helpless as “old fashioned” cell phone users. Even among the 62% of smartphone users out there, an estimated half of them aren’t installing QR code software to their device.

Downloading and installing QR readers is an extra step the consumer is forced to engage in. Without knowing the payoff on the other side of the action, many consumers find the risk to reward ratio to be too much.

The problem this presents is that right now the majority of QR code recipients are technology early adopters. This presents an interesting paradox for mobile marketing professionals. For some target markets QR codes can be extremely effective. For example, younger generations are adapt to using QR technology and have also proven more inclined to take the risk of acting on an offer they aren’t fully aware of than their parents or grandparents. This makes mobile marketing with QR codes an excellent tactic with this audience. However, a QR code campaign designed for a retirement home probably isn’t going to get enough traction to validate the cost of the campaign.

So are QR codes a fad or not?

One of two things really needs to happen before we know if QR codes are here to stay. Either smartphone manufacturers need to start including QR readers as pre-installed, standard software on devices, or the market demand needs to grow beyond localized target audiences.

Japan may hold the answer. The Japanese market has had success with QR code marketing for several years. But Japan is also years ahead of the United States in consumer responsiveness to new technology. Looking at Japan’s experience in the QR code field I’d venture to say that fully integrated QR code marketing is still a few years away for the US. However for the right business, mobile marketing with QR codes could generate incredible results now while the competition is low.

To learn more and find out if mobile marketing with QR codes is right for your company, contact Cook Wheelwright Marketing or scan the QR code below for a free mobile marketing analysis.
What's Your Score QR Code