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5 ways to use mobile barcodes (before they're obsolete)
Tony Felice, Senior Strategist, Red Door Interactive
A recent trip to the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah had me convinced: Mobile barcodes are everywhere. From bus benches to the shelves of major retailers, the chunky codes have become integrated into nearly all media. At the same time, many pundits and trend-watchers rally that mobile barcodes are already on the way out, obsolescing by advances in image recognition and near-field communications (NFC). While Google's shift away from QR codes in its Places service is perhaps the first few bars of a swan song, CMOs will continue to ask their thought leaders for a point of view.
Reputable data at last
What's wrong with mobile barcodes?
ComScore has recently published one of the most interesting and unbiased reports on QR code usage
to date, and it confirms what many in marketing suspect: Very few people are actually scanning these codes. By comScore's measure, 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience scanned a QR code during June 2011. According to the study, young males with higher income are the most likely to engage with this type of media.
There are several barriers for consumers. Not only does the user need to be familiar with the format, but they also have to have a modestly equipped mobile device and download a reader app. Once that's covered, they still need an active data connection, and most of all -- they need the time.
Consumers also need to understand what they can expect to find as a result of scanning a code, but oftentimes the codes themselves get in the way of the message. This is purely a subjective observation, but many campaigns that include QR codes seem like ads for QR codes. There are certainly exceptions, and some of the most well-executed campaigns would have been impossible without them (the Homeplus Subway Virtual Store comes to mind). But generally speaking, effective QR codes take valuable real estate that could otherwise be used to communicate a message.
I recently visited a high-end electric automobile showroom that had some very interesting touch-screen kiosks (any guesses?). As I became immersed in the experience of designing my dream roadster, a small prompt percolated into view and asked me if I would like to follow the brand on Facebook. I took the bait, and an overlay appeared with a QR code. I was so engaged that I pulled my phone out and scanned without a second thought. The QR code took me directly to the brand's Facebook page.