QR Codes: Cracking the (QR) Code
As we reach the midpoint of 2011, it's clear that mobile has become a formidable marketing channel and will continue to blaze its trail into retail. Nielsen predicts that by the third quarter of 2011 smartphones will be the dominant mobile device in the U.S., overtaking feature phones. At some point we may stop referring to these handheld computers as phones and come up with a more accurate name that conveys the multidimensional communications and connectivity they provide.
A generation ago, the thought of nearly every adult walking around with an always-on communications portal, replete with camera and location awareness, was science fiction at its best. The real-world impact of mobile can't be overestimated, nor is it likely that we've seen all there is to see in terms of capability for marketers. Mobile technology has spawned or repurposed a number of other technological advances as well, of which one of the fastest growing is QR codes. QR (for quick response) codes are an upgrade to the well-known barcode. They allow in excess of 7,000 characters to be embedded into the code itself. More importantly, they can be used to provide a connection to the web for those scanning them with a smartphone.
While these codes are ubiquitous in Asia, they're just starting to be discovered in the U.S. Awareness and use of QR codes is growing exponentially. Indeed, 32 percent of U.S. smartphone users have scanned a QR code and another 70 percent said they plan to use one again or for the first time, according to MGH's QR Code Usage and Interest Survey taken in February.
eMarketer reports usage of QR codes is up over 180 percent in the first quarter of 2011. For retailers, the question isn't whether to incorporate QR codes into their marketing strategy, it's how to do it.