QR Codes - Efficiency vs. Adventure

Posted by Nicholas M. Roberts

Perhaps the one aspect of QR codes that has most come under attack is efficiency. An article by Mihaela over at PR connections has outlined what is considered the “costs” of using QR codes. Cost doesn’t simply refer to money spent – in fact, I have explained before how most QR code apps are free. Cost refers to time, and in theory, time is money. Mihaela’s points are as follows:

  • You have to download an app.
  • You need to take your phone from your pocket or purse when you want to scan a code.
  • You need to line up the phone with the QR code.
  • You need to locate the application on your phone’s menu screen.
  • You need to wait for the application to load and launch.
  • You need to take the photo.
  • You need to wait for the photo to be processes (this one perhaps takes the longest).
  • You need to wait for the information to appear once the phone knows what to display.
  • And finally, you need to look at whatever data the code led you too. Frequently, there is much more information than a standard advertisement.

Mihaela’s list of costs is comprehensive and it has a very good point. Why would people go through all this effort? Marketers are more than capable of designing posters, flyers and coupon books…and they can be observed by consumers in a fraction of the time.

I do have a response to this. There is one element I feel Mihaela is overlooking and that is the adventure. People love to explore. It brings out their inner child. Scanning a QR code brings about a sense of excitement. When they’re walking through the city, they may see a code in an obscure place. They think: “what will this code lead me to?” It’s like solving an easy mystery every time you scan. This news lady displays just how adventurous QR codes can be by taking to the streets on a code hunt. She looks high and low and uncovers data in multiple languages. It’s fascinating to see what your city is up to.

Unfortunately, it seems like the adventure is a bit too taxing for most people. A press release from August 2011 finds that while 14 million people scanned QR codes in June of the same year, only 12.6 percent were doing so outdoors. You can view the press release here. June is a summer month, so we cannot attribute this to the weather. 58% of users were scanning codes at home, perhaps from items on the internet or that came in the mail. 39.4% were scanning code inside of stores. These codes are frequently pertinent to the store itself or a particular product within. There is little adventure in that. Maybe the novelty has worn off, or maybe people just want to use codes to save money. Whatever the reason, I feel it is up to companies to make consumers want to scan their codes. If adventure isn’t working, what other motivation can be instilled in consumers. I do not have an answer to this question, but if you do, please feel free to comment or contact.