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QR Codes Create Digital Curiosity

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QR Codes Create Digital Curiosity
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When I first saw a QR code, I shrugged my shoulders and thought “one more piece of technology looking for a solution”.

I’m not cynical … I’ve just lived through years of expectation for smart cards and contactless cards only to see the technologists and vendors more excited about the product than consumers ever were.

Now I found myself staring at a black and white digital pattern slightly more intriguing than a bar code, and wondering what all the fuss was about. My disdain for QR codes has grown into mild fascination as I have experienced their use on a personal level and have witnessed how brands are using them to efficiently engage customers and grow their business.

Newspapers have made good use of the codes, allowing readers to instantly shift from print to online sources of content, in the process bringing a print story to life with a video or blog. Promotions and offers have been mixed in with content delivery to award readers for taking time to read the codes and explore an online version of the publication.

Retailers, especially local merchants fighting to win mind-share from the national brands, are using QR codes to effectively keep the store open “24/7” by highlighting featured inventory or take viewers to online stores where they can shop at their leisure.

I’ve also seen the use of QR codes stretched beyond what consumers can digest. A local realtor comes to mind who substituted codes in a monthly print ad for the usual four color pictures of listed properties. The presentation was a bit too obscure and I noticed that the realtor reverted to pretty pictures the next month with one QR code in the corner directing readers to a web site.

Speaking of web sites, the most common use of QR codes I have seen in business so far is the inclusion of a code on a business card or online profile offering another way for visitors to link to a web site home page. Even though I created the code in this post with the same linkage, it’s an unimaginative use of the technology.

QR codes are much better used to send visitors to micro-sites, videos, or other dynamically changeable content that serve a specific business purpose. They could also be used in single-use format to enable reward redemption at point-of-sale.

With Nielsen projecting the penetration of smartphones in the US to exceed 50% by the end of 2011, more people will be able to easily access the information available. It might be merely an anecdotal commentary, but I’ll bet that the people who do have smartphones today represent an audience willing to take a digital shortcut to view useful content and get needed information from their phones without having to type clumsy URL’s into their browser.

Like most technology, the real fun starts when people apply their imagination to use applications in ways not anticipated by the inventors. QR codes have high potential for imaginative use and we expect to see more of them in both B2C and B2B settings.

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