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Should You Need a License to Use a QR Code?

How much time does it take to use a QR Code? See and recognise the QR Code (1-2s), pull out your phone (2-4s), unlock your phone (2-3s), find the camera app (2-3s), launch the camera (4-7s), line up the QR Code (2s), decode the data (1s), launch the service based on the data in the QR Code (3-5s), consume the content. That’s 15-25 seconds. Sounds like not much but sit there looking at your watch/clock for 25 seconds. That feels like a long wait. After waiting for that long, what value do you want from the QR Code? How many times will you give up that 25 seconds in the store for something useless before you simply stop bothering to scan QR Codes. Bad value for time spent could kill QR Codes before they take off — or worse, just after they take off and everyone’s already invested in them.

Essentially, a QR Code is a glorified bar code. You can see one on left there with the bitHeads’ logo in the center. If you scan it with your QR Code reader, it will take you back to our website. I’m breaking my own rule here as that’s not a very useful application for the QR Code. In time, I will have that code show up on the mobile view of the site so if you are reading the article on your mobile device and someone beside you wants to see it they can just scan the code on your phone’s screen and their browser will launch them directly to the article. That’s mildly useful as you don’t have to share any of your personal information with the other person and they can still get the link to my article.

Currently, you see QR Codes used in advertising. Often the scan of the code directs you to a website for the product you are looking for. BlackBerry App World generates QR Codes for directly launching the BlackBerry App World application to that product’s page if you scan it with a BlackBerry. Developers and publishers can use this code on their advertisement to make it easy for potential customers to directly link into the App World product catalogue rather than having to manually search.

You’re starting to see some movie or TV ads that use the QR Codes and link to trailers or clips of the show. That’s probably a worthwhile use for the codes as the user gets additional content they can see on their mobile even after leaving the ad behind (i.e. at a subway station or bus stop).

These are fairly useful uses of QR Codes but there are some examples that are not. There’s a great and humorous blog post here that talks about a case of not thinking things through when using QR Codes. In that example, scanning a code on a piece of clothing at a store linked to a video clip related to the clothing. Is that really useful information? Or is that the most useful information that you could get via a QR Code scan? What about linking to a page that identifies other similar clothing sold at the store or clothing that matches what you’re holding. “Check out this shirt that matches those pants.” That’s useful information.

When marketers are looking to incorporate new ideas and especially when they tie into leveraging the mobile device most people are carrying around, I’m fully supportive — in fact I strongly encourage it. But if QR Codes are used in ways that don’t provide value for consumers, they can easily get a bad rap as useless. This harms everyone that wants to make good use of QR Codes and could kill them before they even get a chance to take off.

(article re-published from BaconOnTheGo.com with permission)

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