Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You’re doing it wrong: QR Codes and how to use them

The QR code. Shrouded in mystery and desire for only the elite consumer. Every product and print ad with it’s own Delta Sky Club–like access. They came by storm and like most technology their true potential has been mostly speculative and mostly wrong.

So how did this happen? Well, it’s a classic case of cart before the horse. At present you’ll most frequently see QR codes in magazines, allowing you access to special websites, deals and product information using your smart phone. It’s true that desire can be cultivated through secrecy, but the technology used to read these codes isn’t as developed as it should be. Currently, to read a QR code your phone will need the right app, followed by the laborious process of taking the picture, which requires you to find the camera function, focus the shot for about 4-5 seconds and finally be taken to your pot of gold...that is if your signal is strong enough to get online. While this may not always be the case, in whole it still feels like an extra step. You’re better off giving them a code to enter on their home computer, where they’re actually making the purchase. And as if the process isn’t complex enough, some QR codes have even made their way onto outdoor boards…on the interstate.

So what to do? Just stuff our little pixilated friend into a drawer for another few years? Not quite. Think like the airlines. As frequent travelers know, you can now check in, navigate security and board your plane with a QR code read from your phone. This is because QR codes can store infinitely more information than the barcode, information about you. So back to our desire to be special, why not put these codes in the hands of the consumer?

Imagine you’re shopping for clothes. With the help of an application, you make your own QR code that specifies the style, brands, size and even colors you like (a one time process). Next time you enter the mall or store, your code can be scanned telling you what clothiers have the items you’re looking for, whether they’re on sale, pull online coupons to use and even track your rewards programs. It’s easy, makes the consumer experience simpler and most of all provides true customization.

This is how technology should be used in advertising. Not just thrown into the mix as the next big thing, but tailored to do what we’re trying to accomplish, create an engaging experience for consumers while driving purchase.


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