Study decodes the usefulness of QR codes

by Kristen MacBride

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Ever notice those inconspicuous, little black-and-white checkered boxes hidden among the designs of magazines, posters or other advertisements that seem out of place alongside displays of Calvin Klein underwear models or shiny new Fords? Many people think of these boxes to be nothing more than messy, misplaced blobs – or even possible printing errors – and go on skimming through their magazines or coupon books. However, these boxes are much more than messy blobs disturbing the order of pristinely manufactured advertisements. They are quick response codes. As more and more of these checkered boxes continue to pop up on ad surfaces, people are beginning to take note of their value and usefulness.

QR codes allow potential customers access to instant, additional information on the subject from which the code is presented. To download these virtual information tidbits, potential customers need smartphones with cameras and software that either comes included on the phone or that must be downloaded. A simple Google search will explain what software is needed for each phone.

QR codes may be used for a variety of reasons by any type of business. One QR code may offer a special discount or coupon for a product while another will present the downloader with additional information, pictures or website links about the initial advertisement. For example, Google has sent out thousands of company-specific QR codes as window decals that will instantly take downloaders to that business’ “Place page” on Google. This allows them to read reviews about the business, find special offers, leave a review and star the business to remember it for later.

The information derived from scanning a QR code is unlimited, making it a unique and valuable dimension for the advertising world and for people who see an interesting advertisement and want more information on the fly. However, though QR codes seem to be an advertiser’s dream, many people simply don’t have the access, knowledge or interest to learn the technology of the process.

A company called Lab42 gathered valuable information to determine whether or not the mainstream public is actually utilizing QR codes and taking advantage of their full potential. The results proved congruent with the inherent problem of these checkered squares – they are just too inconspicuous for the average person. Out of 500 people 13 or older, 58 percent were not familiar with QR codes and 43 percent of those people had no idea what they even were. However, for those who have successfully scanned QR codes, they have been found to provide an easy and efficient way to have concert tickets, store coupons and transportation tickets readily available on a smartphone for safekeeping.

Another beneficial use of QR codes is that people can create their own code from a free, online service. This allows use for personal business purposes, such as putting a code on business cards, flyers, emails or brochures. This grants businesses an extra, technological edge. In theory, QR codes are a unique way for businesses and advertisers to reach their customers easily and painlessly. Nevertheless, the real potential for expansion and popularity of this technology lies in the willingness of the public to adopt these codes into everyday life.