Interesting times for QR codes?

QR codes (2D barcodes) have been front of mind for me recently, partly for the wrong reasons:

Malicious QR Codes, QR Codes that might unleash some malware on your phone, parroted by many outlets, including this piece by TechCrunch while EConsultancy wonders whether the link with malware could damage perceptions of QR Codes amongst consumers, pointing out that two thirds of consumers don’t know what they are anyway.

For balance here’s QR code booster Eismann O’Reilly’s reality check on the panic.

Then there was this opinion piece from Sean X Cummings, with more in the ‘why QR Codes Must Die’ vein (Google the phrase, plenty to read!). The best point from it being:

“People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces.”

I’ve kvetched before on this blog about dumb QR codes that only take you to a site’s homepage too.

On the other hand, I saw an in-the-flesh example of QR codes done right. Here’s an ad (there are severalĀ ‘shelves’ on other walls too) from a metro station in Prague. Metro QR Codes are going after the drugstore category (a departure from their usual consumer durables focus) with this take on drugstore shelves. Scan the code, go to the product page on a mobile optimised site (helps that there’s at least 2G signal down at platform level of the metro). They’re offering free next day delivery too, to remove that obstacle. Of course a short URL would probably work just as well as the QR code.

For more on some of the latest retail developments, including a few using QR codes in the UK, read this from Neville Hobson.

If you’re going to use QR codes…

QR Code at metro stationPlease don’t make the mistake these people made. That QR code goes to their homepage. Not the product detail page for the camera they’ve clearly spent a lot of money advertising. QR Codes finally give you a metric of success for your offline advertising (whether you use them to compare different placements, or different media types, as long as you’re doing a fair comparison, this data can be incredibly useful). Here’s a quick three point checklist:

Does the QR code get the user to the right page – a landing page that is relevant to the product being advertised?

Have you included tracking variables in the URL (such as Google Analytics utm_medium, utm_source and utm_campaign parameters)?

Are you paying attention to the statistic being generated?

Because otherwise, you’re just perpetuating the same problem of offline advertising of not knowing for sure what works and what doesn’t.