Monday, January 9, 2012

We are the 95%

I may not be the savviest of smartphone users in the sense that I do not scramble to upgrade my phone each time a new operating system is released, nor am I one of the first people to try out the newest apps in town. I however, definitely consider myself a fairly regular smartphone user - I access my social networking accounts via mobile, shop via mobile web and go about daily life with constant references to my weather app, transport app, schedule etc.

But, according to adage, I am but one of the 95% of mobile users in the states who do not scan QR codes.

QR (Quick Response) Codes seem to be the marketer’s answer to “integrating” their online and offline campaigns and getting consumers to interact with the brand digitally. However, despite being surrounded by QR codes (in malls, buses, behind my cereal box and even in toilets!), I rarely see people actually scanning these codes.

While I can’t speak for the rest of the 95%, here are some of the reasons why I do not scan QR codes:

1) Unlike the camera app, which is already installed in the phone, I would have to download a QR code scanner before I can start scanning. This leads me to my next problem...

2) I am torn as to which app I should download. A quick scan through the iTunes app store showed more than 10 different QR code scanners which I can choose from. Reading through the reviews about the app, there seems to be a significant number of people who face problems getting their QR scanners to work.

3) And when I finally succeed in download a working QR code scanner, there’s this problem plainly referred to as ‘silly placements of QR codes’. There are just too many companies that throw in QR codes into their promotional materials at second thought – I have seen (far too frequently) instances where I would have had to squat in the middle of a crowded department store or be on tiptoes just to reach the bottom left or top right of a poster where the QR code has been banished to. And no, I do not have enough time to whip out my phone, find the QR scanner app, wait for the app to start, and scan the code as I am ascending the escalator.

4) When I do find a QR code that is thankfully placed at the appropriate height, few QR codes are actually even worth the scan. Another pet peeve of mine is QR codes that do not come with any explanation of what the QR codes are for, or what consumers should expect should they scan the code – and no, ‘scan the code to find out more!’ is not enough of an explanation.

So what would motivate me and hopefully others from the 95% to start scanning QR codes? Here are some QR code best practices which I hope would enlighten companies to the effective use of QR codes:

1) Cooperate with mobile phone providers to have QR code scanners pre- installed: While this might be a far cry, having a QR code scanner pre-installed in the smart phone would be a great way to get people started on using QR codes. According to Nielsen, most used apps are Facebook, Email, Maps, Search and Angry Birds, all of which are pre-installed apps.

2) Educate your audience: One of the main reasons which people state for choosing not to scan QR codes is simply because a) they do not know how to and b) they don’t see why they should scan the codes. Therefore, I would recommend for all marketers to address the questions “how does it work?” and “what’s going to happen after I scan the code?” in every promotional material that includes a QR code. '

3) Avoid small, complex QR codes: Smartphone cameras with resolution less than 4- megapixels can't scan a QR code smaller than about 1"x1". Moreover, without the auto- focus (AF) camera feature, a complex QR code will have the same scanning issue, even if the code is larger. The iPhone 3GS and Blackberry are popular handset examples that lack both of these camera features. Therefore, marketers should stick to these 3 rules when it comes to the size and placement of QR codes: simple, large, central.

4) Make your QR codes worth the scan: Because users are putting in the extra effort to scan the QR codes, it is inevitable that they have higher expectations as to what content they hope to find. Therefore, companies should learn to reward users who scan their QR codes via discounts, exclusive content, value-added service, etc. A QR scan that does nothing but to only bring me to the company’s website (worse if it’s a non-mobile optimized website!!!) would only further discourage me from ever scanning QR codes again.

5) Beautify your QR codes: Take a cue from the Japanese and make your QR codes so irresistibly appealing that users can’t help but want to interact with it. This would probably be useful in getting more females to start scanning QR codes as well. See this article for more information on how you can make your QR codes more beautiful.

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