QR codes are, in a word, cool. For one, they link you directly from print marketing materials to online content when you scan them on your smartphone. The flexibility of QR codes is also impressive—they can summon websites, text files, and more.
Sure, I think QR codes are pretty cool. But I’ve never actually scanned one.
Why haven’t I ever scanned a QR code? I simply don’t have a smartphone. Without one, I’m sure I’m in the minority at an online marketing firm like Fathom. I plan to upgrade to a data plan eventually, but until then, I’ll be unable to scan every QR code I see to access the amazing exclusive content I’ve heard so much about.
But whenever I hear about QR codes, I find mixed messages. Some articles describe how effective QR codes can be, while others lament that they only reach a limited market.
So what’s the real story?
The number of non-smartphone users is still pretty substantial. In July 2011, comScore reported that out of 234 million Americans who have mobile phones, 82.2 million have smartphones. That leaves roughly 150 million cell phone users who can’t access QR codes, not to mention the millions of others who don’t even have cell phones to begin with. And out of all those smartphone users, only 14 million scanned QR codes in the month of June.
The issue with QR codes is largely a matter of targeting the right audience. comScore also reported that QR code users were more likely to be male, teenaged to middle-aged, and at higher income levels. This demographic, in some ways, confirms my suspicion that QR code content isn’t really geared to the types of people who don’t have smartphones anyway.
Don’t forget about me!
When using QR codes, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re only part of your overall strategy. The fact that QR codes reach a limited audience reinforces the idea that you should use a variety of platforms to market exclusive deals. Are you offering a great coupon through that QR code? Attract your non-smartphone audience members (like me) with some kind of incentive on Facebook.
While it’s easy to reach a diverse audience through a well-designed content strategy, I’m not sure that those of us who want a smartphone but haven’t gotten one yet are fully recognized as a significant share of the market. But perhaps not being able to scan codes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Reading about QR codes and seeing them everywhere makes me realize that when I finally get a smartphone, I will probably spend a few weeks scanning every code I come across to make up for lost time.
Does this sense of exclusivity mean that QR codes will be a resilient marketing technique? Or will their limited reach cause them to disappear before long? I guess I’ll have to wait and see and hope they’re still around by the time I get a smartphone.
*Image provided by James Bowe on Flickr.
Executive survey: Learn what NE Ohio’s retailer decision-makers say about using social media for marketing in Fathom’s executive survey.