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Epiphany Search

Last year my colleague Gaz asked in his blog post whether QR (quick response) codes were a gimmick or a useful tool, and received some interesting responses on our site. Readers generally felt that there was a genuine interest in QR codes. However, there were still several barriers to widespread adoption, including consumer’s understanding of what they were, the need to own a smartphone and download software, and that there were not enough interesting applications.

A year later, there is still a lot of talk on the subject and the debate over whether they are here to stay.


There are certainly signs that QR codes are becoming more popular, as the adoption of smart phones continues to rise and more companies understand the importance of having a ‘mobile’ element to their overall marketing campaigns. According to Google Trends, around one in five FTSE 250 companies use QR codes (although this mainly includes distributing extra information in advertising). However despite this, most smartphones do not come with a pre-installed QR code scanner and so users still have to download an application. Although these applications are easy to find and free to download, the quality and reliability of apps can vary.


One of the reasons QR codes are often seen as a gimmick is the way people perceive their usefulness. Why should customers take the time to scan a QR code when they could simply type a URL into their phone or read the information on a poster? Well firstly, QR codes could actually save users time, meaning they do not have to type long URLs or other information into their mobile phone. However, customers will expect to receive interesting, engaging or useful information, rather than just the company’s homepage or repeating information found on printed material. It is crucial for those who are thinking about creating QR codes to carefully plan their activity, ensuring that they are using the right tool for the job and give the audience the right information. That said, over the past few years, there are been many innovative, interesting and useful applications of QR codes: -      Business Cards: QR codes can be placed on business cards which, when scanned, automatically save all the contact information into your phone. Alternatively it may automatically dial a telephone number or link to Google Maps to provide directions. -      Shopping: Nissan has started putting QR codes stickers on the windows of cars in their dealerships, which users can scan to find out specific information about the vehicles including features, videos and inventory levels. Home Depot display QR codes next to products in store, which provide users with product information, related accessories, video how-to guides and project guidelines. -      E-commerce: Tesco Home recently set up virtual stores in Korean subway stations. Commuters could scan product codes, which placed them into the online store basket. Users could then purchase online and book delivery for the same day when they returned from work. -      Social Media Sharing: QR codes can be used to direct consumers to social media forums to engage in online conversations or share content via social networking sites. Clothes manufacturer, Diesel, are using QR codes to promote facebook ‘likes’ from in store by placing QR codes next to products. -      Education: Many museums are starting to use QR codes to provide additional information and interactive content, and allowing visitors to leave comments about exhibitions. For example, The Cleveland Museum of Art has used QR codes to provide audio tours of their museums. However, I think we will still have to wait a while longer to see if QR codes really are more than a gimmick. Yet as companies start to realise the wide range of application and benefits combined with the increasing growth of the mobile, it seems QR codes could well be here to stay. Interested in trying out a QR code challenge in Leeds? Click here for more information on the CheckIn CheckOff challenge as part of the Leeds Digital Festival. What are your opinions on QR codes? I’d love to hear your comments below.