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The case for QR codes

There has been a lot said over the past few months (and probably longer) over whether or not QR codes are a good device for bridging the gap between the mobile world and the real one. But what is the real problem with QR codes and is there a place for them?

How does a QR code work?

The basic idea behind a QR code is that users who scan a QR code with their mobile device are directed to a mobile website where they can then interact with the site and either enter a competition or get additional information about what they were viewing.

The benefit is that you can get an immediate result as to how well or poorly your offline media presence is performing. You can also tell what percentage of promised eyeballs then converts to a potential lead and allows you to engage with them further.

What are the limitations?

I am not saying that the technology is perfect– there are definitely some limitations when it comes to QR codes. The biggest of which is that the major mobile device manufacturers are not installing QR code readers as a standard to their devices. A user needs to first identify the need for the reader and then needs to work out where they can download one from. Then only is the mobile device able to decode the QR code.

Further complicating the situation is that there are a multitude of different readers available and all have different degrees of complexity. These are just some of the more popular ones available:

For QR codes to really pick up two major things need to happen:

  1. Manufacturers need to install QR Code readers as standard on their devices.

  2. There needs to be at least a platform standard so that the marketing industry will accept QR codes and begin using them more readily.

The biggest limitation of all?

Quite possibly the biggest limitation of all is the fact that there is a very bad reputation around QR codes. People are becoming more and more averse to using them and they are beginning to lose traction in the market.

Many are reporting poor take up for the “gimmicky” device and are reluctant to stick with it for future marketing campaigns.

There is a shining light when businesses persevere with their decision to use QR codes and more importantly when they discover the need that the customer is desperate to have fulfilled that will make their lives easier.

In South Korea the local division of Tesco, known as Homeplus, has cracked the code perfectly!

In South Korea, Homeplus has far fewer stores than their number one competitor, e-mart. This lower foot traffic means that it would ultimately always have less of a chance to grow its exposure and become South Korea’s number one store. In an effort to become number one, it approached its customers who all said that they needed to cut out the time that they spent in the stores.

South Koreans are a very hard-working people who dread the time spent in store. Homeplus’ solution: Take the store to them.

The South Korean subway system is how the majority of commuters travel to and from work. Homeplus replicated its store shelving on the walls of the subway with each product being featured. These shelves look exactly the same as to how the shelving would look in real life!

The only difference is that next to each product, a small QR code is displayed. When a shopper scans the product QR code with their phone, the product automatically lands in their online cart. There the shopper can choose the quantity. Once the virtual shopper has finished shopping and scanning in codes, they can checkout through their mobile phones.

Once checkout has been completed, the order is compiled in store and immediately delivered to the shoppers home from their closest Homeplus store.

It is exactly like shopping in a real store, just better!

  • Shoppers can see the products they are going to buy

  • Shoppers don’t have to stand in check out queues
  • Waiting time of shoppers in store was cut out
  • Shopper convenience went through the roof

The Homeplus brand has now become the number one online shopping brand in South Korea and is an incredibly close number two for in store shopping.

All of this from a QR Code. It is more a question of the fulfilment of a need than the technology used. Provided the barriers are low enough and the reward big enough, then the users will convert.

QR Codes just need innovative people to use the technology in such a way that it only makes sense for consumers to take advantage!

Author | Jonathan Houston

Jonathan Houston
Jonathan Houston is passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan is the Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. Jonathan's work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital... More
  • Nathaniel Hamann

    Nice one Jonathan, love the subway thing. Makes you wonder when brilliant ideas of this sort are used in South Africa. Nowadays the only services every South African Tom, Dick and Harry media agency offer is Facebook and Twitter, i have yet to see something of this scale used as a platform to solidify a brand.

  • Larry

    Would the same not be achieved using Bar Code scanning appossed to QR Codes ???

  • Tawanda

    True! People just copy what others are doing without any WOW innovations/ideas/creativity/originality. This is what is missing in SA

  • sky light

    Mobile QR codes or 2D code are
    codes in the same way as ordinary barcodes are, but their matrix
    structure can hold more information. The codes are also mobile in the
    sense that you can use the camera on your mobile device to scan and
    decode them. You can convert a web address (URL), a phone number, an
    email address or plain text into a mobile code. After scanning it with
    your camera phone, you will have instant access to the encoded
    information straight on the display of your mobile device.

  • Steemje

    Hi Jonathan,

    Another reason, and maybe the most important reason why QR codes are being turned down is the fact that more than 85% are used badly. There are loads of free QR code generators online and everyone thinks they can be ‘tech savy’ by using them. But them they send it (as example) to a mobile unfriendly home page which is impossible to read and navigate with a touch screen mobile phone. Unfortunately there are many more stupid things people do with QR codes.

    Scan three of these bad QR codes in a row, and I fully understand why people reject and ignore them. It’s the fact that every Tom Dick and Harry wants to be be like the Jones’s for free. I have seen many a marketing and communication company make the same stupid errors.

    I think QR code education for the masses is needed to make it a success, if we leave it to the hobby clubs, social media guru’s and advertising agencies, it will end up going the same route as bluetooth.

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