Techie Abroad: QR Codes are far from dead

Scan my QR Code

Admit it. We have all done it. We have all taken our cell phones and scanned a QR Code once or twice. But to be honest, just like most people, I can’t recall the last time I scanned a QR Code. QR Codes have been with us for some time now. These were originally born out of automotive industry in Japan where each part had a code that could store more information than a standard bar code and were machine-readable to track part of the vehicle as it moved through the construction line.  Since then QR Codes have been adopted by marketers who have placed these strange looking blocks anywhere and everywhere and when they are scanned with a smart phone they typically take us to a mobi site to get more information about a specific item.

I was pretty sure that QR Codes have seen their last days, so I was somewhat surprised to see that in Europe there are QR Codes everywhere and on virtually everything and these are scanned often.

So have we missed a trick back in South Africa ? Why do QR Codes work in Europe and not in South Africa ?

The answer seems to boil down to how QR Codes are used.

In South Africa, the typical QR Code takes you to a mobi site. If that all it does, then the only value is in saving you the inconvenience of typing a URL on your phone’s browser. However, we are so used to typing on our phones that this is not a major hassle-saver.

By contrast, in Europe, the QR Code is used for much more than a link to a site. I have so far used the QR Code in various ways for various functions including:

  • The QR Code on my ticket to a show adds the show’s details to my phone’s calendar complete with the address and the direction on where the nearest train station is.
  • The QR Code on the hotel’s brochure added the hotel’s contact info to my phone with a note saying I could call this number if I needed the hotel to speak to the taxi driver to negotiate the correct fare to get back to the hotel.
  • The QR Code on the menu gave me the option to call the restaurant to place my take-away order.
  • Instead of typing the username and password for the WiFi in the hotel, I simply scanned the QR code and it took me to the login page with everything pre-typed in.
  • At various tourist sites you can scan the QR Code to download the local app that will guide you through the tourist site.
  • At the train station you can download the train routes directly onto the phone via the QR Code.
  • The coolest example of QR Code usage was on a sign saying “Are you lost ?” and when you scan the QR code it opened up a menu that offered a telephone number to call for directions to help you get from your current location to where you want to get to.

These innovative usage of the QR Code are technologically possible and can easily be incorporated into our South African products and services. So  it appears that QR Code are not dead. They can and do work and are effective.

The following are some lessons are should be adhered to:

  • Make it easy for customer to use.
  • Don’t expect people to instinctively know what will happen when they scan the code. Just explain it.
  • Don’t just slap a code on everything. Only add the QR Code if it can add to the customer experience and adds some value.
  • Choose the right technology – if a mobi site makes more sense over an App, don’t force the customer to download an entire app.
  • Make sure the QR Codes are scanable. Don’t place it on billboards on the highway or in the Gautrain station where there is no cell phone signal.

With planning and value-added experiences, QR Codes can enhance effective engagement with customers and as long as the above rules are followed, QR Codes potential and value is far from over.

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