Monday, March 3, 2014

Should you QR?

by Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

A QR code (Quick Response code) is a type of 2-dimensional bar code that is used to provide easy access to information through a smartphone.  The technology was originally developed by Densa-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary, for tracking inventory.

Phones equipped with a barcode reader (it takes literally one minute for someone with an iPhone or Android to find and install a reader) interpret the encoded URL, which directs the browser to the relevant information on a website.  Known as mobile tagging, the smartphone’s owner points the phone at a QR code and opens a barcode reader app which works in conjunction with the phone’s camera.  The reader interprets the code, which typically contains a call to action such as an invitation to download a mobile application, a link to view a video, or a message invitation.  The user can choose to act or ignore the invitation.  QR codes can store up to 7,089 characters.

QR Codes can be used for:
  1. Mobile Marketing:  put them out there, where the smartphones go, and promote yourself.
  2. Search Engine Optimization:   one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated and fresh.  If a QR code is added to your website, search engines will see that your pages have changed, see a new image, and index it accordingly.

Do they work?

As of May, 2013, half of the US population owned a smartphone.  However, only 19 percent of US smartphone users had scanned a QR code in some form.

Are users truly experiencing value through QR utilization?
  1. QR codes don’t leave much room for a short attention span. The entire process is lengthy: an individual has to locate the QR code, take out their phone, make sure their app is up-to-date, scan the code, and wait for the page to load. At this point, their mind has already moved on - that quickly.
  2. Smartphone users fail to recognize the value of QR codes.  While it may seem like a simple concept, users simply don’t know how to use QR codes.  Poorly placed QR codes are a big issue, but even when they’re placed appropriately, users are rarely prepared to scan the code when they see it.
If you choose to use QR codes, consider these guidelines:

Don’t link to a desktop site:  QR codes are an innately mobile experience, so the content you want consumers to view must be mobile-optimized.  If you actually manage to get consumers to scan your code and then present them with a desktop site, they won’t stick around to read your content.

Make sure it serves a purpose and is placed well:  ridiculous uses of QR codes is definitely worth taking a look at for a laugh.

Size matters:  the absolute minimum size a QR code should be is one inch square.  Anything smaller is not only difficult to scan, but also people simply won’t notice it. says that the relationship between scan distance and minimum QR code size is roughly 10:1.

Tell users what they stand to benefit:  scanning a QR code is a bit of a chore, so a consumer is highly unlikely to pull out their phone unless they know they’re going to get something in return. Therefore it’s important that you give some information on to what the QR code links, and, depending on who you’re targeting, possibly instructions on how to download a QR code reader.

Instructions for scanning the code can be a simple: “Scan to get 2-for-1,” or “Scan to read product reviews.”  You need to entice the user, so make sure the content you are offering to them is worth the effort.

Test it:  once you’ve got your final product, make sure you test the QR code using different reader apps and smartphones from a range of angles and distances.  If you can’t get it to work in perfect conditions, then users will be ultimately annoyed if their efforts to scan a QR code come to naught.

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