Many small business owners wonder if QR codes are an effective type of marketing. These have a certain appeal as they appear to be an efficient and high tech way to get your message across. In my opinion, however, QR codes are overrated and are an example of a technology that has never really lived up to the hype surrounding it. When business owners ask me if these are good marketing tools, I often ask in response how often they scan QR codes themselves. They usually give me a blank look. According to Visualead, only about 15 percent of smart device owners use them.

For the uninitiated, QR codes, short for Quality Response codes, are a type of device-readable barcode that can store information such as website URLs or phone numbers. They look similar to the barcodes you see on items at the supermarket. QR codes can be placed almost anywhere, such as on business cards, billboards or signs. They can also be downloaded by printers or emailed to people. The idea is that your prospective customers will scan your QR code with their smartphones, visit your website and hopefully take whatever action you want them to take. In practice, however, there are several built-in limitations to this technology.

There are a number of reasons that I’m not enthusiastic about QR codes…

1. They require a QR code scanner. While it’s not difficult for anyone with a smartphone to acquire this, few people actually do. People either have to go out of their way to download an app for this or buy a phone on which it’s pre-installed. In many cases, people who have these apps aren’t even aware of it or haven’t bothered to check them out.

2. They are confusing or a turnoff. Even in our tech-savvy world, many people still don’t know how to use QR codes. Furthermore, many people simply don’t like them. They tend to evoke images of checking out at the supermarket or a box store, not the most pleasant or exciting experiences.

3. They are often pointless or redundant. It’s more of a gimmick than truly practical to have a QR code on your business card, for example. If you hand someone a business card, it will already have your phone number, website and other info on it.

4. They are not an effective branding tool. If you want people to remember the name of your business or its URL, it’s better to print it out than to have a QR code, which just looks like a generic barcode. Having an URL that’s short and easy to remember is a superior branding tool.

QR codes may have some limited uses. For most businesses, however, they are probably not worth the effort. You are putting extra steps between your audience and your website. If you’re seeking a fast way for people to reach you, texting campaigns are far more efficient. For most purposes, you are better off directly displaying your information, such as your logo, website URL or phone number, rather than making people scan a QR code to find you.

What do you think about QR codes in marketing?

About Jenni Mullins

Jenni has 15 years of experience in Digital Marketing. She has worked with clients of many different sizes and in many different industries. She decided to start Moxie Digital to take all the expertise she has and assist small to medium sized business.