The pick up of QR codes as a marketing tool to link prospects directly to Internet content seems a compelling idea - but does it work?
We first commented on the widespread use of QR codes in April 2011. Developed as a device for component tracking in the Japanese automotive industry, their use in marketing appeared to offer a simple means of linking to a web site, or specific page without the need to type in a url. But is it that quick and are business customers that motivated to go through the process?
Sitting in front of my Mac writing this piece and using the QR code on this article, I made 3 tests with an iPhone. Switch phone on, unlock, find scanning app, focus, scan, site reached and open, took variously 16, 18 and 17 seconds. Not that long, but given how quickly people give up if a web site doesn't open in seconds, how many will be bothered? Also it can take longer if the QR code is not focussed straight away. But surprisingly using the Mac, Safari and Google combination took longer - open new browser window, key in company name until it appeared as a prompt, click search. Then the process slows as I scan the results page to find the actual company site, click and open. This took twice as long. And of course if not seated in front of the Mac then the mobile solution would win easily, provided there was a good signal. So may be the technology is robust but is the expectation of what the link will lead to, offer a strong enough motivation to bother with the process?
Not only does the 'call to action' need to promise access to interesting or valuable content, but in my case it also depends on what else I am doing. In a restaurant waiting for the bill my wife and I scanned the QR code on a card to enter a simple questionnaire promising the chance of a prize, because right at that time we had nothing better to do. But if I was skimming through the pages of a magazine would I bother to stop, get out the iPhone and scan a QR code in a display advertisement unless there was powerful motivation to do this?