SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — I’ve tried quick-response codes on my smartphone. After scanning a few and being taken to a commercial or boring corporate website, I lost interest.
The Packer ran them in print with links to online stories and videos. Our page view tracking showed virtually no one used them, so we stopped earlier this year.
QR codes are dead.
At the recent Produce For Better Health Foundation annual conference, PBH showed some consumer survey data that reflected very poorly on QR codes.
It asked, “What would be your response to the following communication methods regarding a type of food that you or someone in your household may enjoy?”
Positively assessed methods included supermarket display signs, TV news segments and ads, social media posts, and radio news or ads.
Only one method had significant negative response: QR codes.
PBH chief executive officer Elizabeth Pivonka said the group stopped using them a year or two ago in marketing and communication because they saw few positive responses.
She’s even stopped using them as a consumer.
“I tried it and then stopped,” she said. “It wasn’t a great experience.”
I know hardly anyone who regularly uses them.
I was prepared to tell readers about the how and why of the QR code’s death, but two things changed my mind:
1. The QR code timeline reminds me of Twitter.
2. I talked to Elliott Grant of HarvestMark.
When Twitter started hitting American consciousness about five years ago, it was mostly idiotic ramblings or product commercials.
When I first started using it, I was underwhelmed. I found myself using it less and less.
And then I heard a media consultant say, if you’re not getting what you want out of Twitter, you’re following the wrong people.
So I changed who I followed, and now I rarely go a day without it.
Why is it so good? It’s unfiltered, immediate and simple. And if you don’t like someone, you unfollow them as easily as you can add someone. It’s your personalized news and entertainment feed.
It has evolved into something useful, and there’s really nothing like it.
The same can be said for QR codes.
“There’s a time and place for the QR code,” Grant said. “We’re using it to communicate information shoppers sometimes want.”
Grant is the founder and chief technology officer for HarvestMark’s parent company, YottaMark, which works on the technology side of implementing QR codes and other technology.
He described himself as an advocate and fan of QR codes, and after talking to him, he had me convinced they will have a resurgence.
He said QR codes are in a classic marketing crater before a rise. Early adopters use them, then they fail to live up to the hype, then people start to use them more effectively, and they take off again.
As more and more consumers buy and become comfortable with smartphones, some technologies are going to follow along the path that Twitter, Facebook and texting took.
Everyone uses them now.
“QR codes executes a gap in that there’s little effort needed with a smartphone,” Grant said.
He said the key is to tell users why they should scan the code, whether it’s to get a coupon, information about a grower or a recipe.
“It can’t be a mystery,” Grant said.
Pivonka said PBH survey data showed that two years ago, social media was in the negative numbers with food communication methods, but now it’s pretty well-received.
“QR codes could change that quickly,” she said.
She also pointed out that if technology like Google Glass catches on, scanning will be that much easier.
Grant caused a bit of a stir in Scottsdale by sporting the glasses, which are not yet available to the public, but should be later this year.
Grant also said his company has been working with a national retail chain, which he declined to name, that has a program requiring produce suppliers to put a QR code on their packages.
The code will take consumers to a site that will offer value and a consistent experience so that consumers will be encouraged to return, Grant said.
He said it’s planned for this summer, but it will probably begin to roll out in the next few months in various markets.
I’ve started scanning QR codes again because they’re convenient and provide value.
I think other consumers will give them another shot too.
Maybe the QR code was just hibernating this whole time.
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