Quick response (QR) codes — those two-dimensional barcodes that resemble a checkerboard on LSD — are appearing more frequently on billboards, magazine ads, business cards, stickers, T-shirts and even in TV commercials!
But evidence suggests many people don’t understand what QR codes are or what to do with them.
You might think that if anyone would know how to use a QR code, it would be college students (do they really have the income to make such a large purchase, like a vehicle?)– a demographic that is immersed in technology and bombarded by marketing. But a recent study found that nearly eight in 10 college students had no idea what to do with a QR code. Archrival, a research group that focuses on youth marketing, surveyed 500 students at 24 colleges and universities across the United States. They found that although about 80% of students owned a smartphone and had previously seen a QR code, only about 20% were able to successfully scan the example QR code they were shown.
Furthermore, about 75% said they were unlikely to scan a QR code in the future.
“Why the discrepancy?” wrote Don Aguirre, brand manager at Archrival. “Students simply struggled with the process. Some didn’t know a third-party app was needed to scan the QR code. Many mistakenly assumed it could be activated with their camera. And others just lost interest, saying the activity took too long.
Unless QR codes become easier, more nimble, and can provide content that engenders a more meaningful connection to the brand or product, potential customers will continue to shower them with apathy, ignoring them completely.
But dealers are embracing QR codes, for better or worse, without offering alternatives.
Personally, so far I’ve been mostly underwhelmed by QR codes used in most advertising. Most dealers use them like a crude hack or insert them into their everyday advertising to show that they are “up-to-date” with current technologies. Realistically for most dealers, they just replace one mobile hassle with another.
The whole point of a QR code is that it’s supposed to make it easier for people to use their phones to connect with information about things that they encounter in everyday advertising. That’s where mobile typing gets in the way.
Most smartphones and even many feature phones have good enough web browsers and data connections to display a simple mobile-friendly web page, but trying to correctly type a URL on even the best smartphone is a pretty tedious and error-prone activity, which is why you want these codes to work. We’ve tested QR codes in dealer advertising and not all of them work when they should. QR codes are meant to increase sales, not alienate people.
We know how to make them work to capture the audience you’re looking for. We’ve seen dealers take our ideas and try to incorporate them into their advertising and we instantly think “they’re doing it wrong”. Why would a dealer use a QR code for a potential customer to get a price or a special deal is beyond us. The “Scan and Save” QR code is worthless. Why any dealer would expect someone to scan a code to get the price or savings or a “special deal” is just wrong. It’s bad advertising. Surprisingly, there are dealers that incorporate this into their advertising. This completely eliminates the demographic that has the disposable income to purchase a new vehicle. Done correctly they can be a boost to sales, incorrectly they are a waste and a wasted opportunity.