For a technology that has been around for over 25 years, the QR code has had a chequered history (sorry, we could not resist that one!).
It is a feature of marketing that arrived with great fanfare, but not with widespread acceptance in the UK. It’s not quite a comeback that excites like the Spice Girls or Take That. Yet, yet this is one 1990s return that could actually be ‘back for good’.
Ironically, the pandemic has been the catalyst for the potential of QR codes finally being realised by UK businesses and their marketing departments.
As of December 2020, the NHS COVID-19 app has been downloaded over 20 million times in the UK and over 750,000 posters with QR codes have been created through the Government’s services to service test and trace. In short, we have suddenly become a nation of QR code users. It has been a long time coming.
Heritage sites across the UK were among the early adopters to utilise QR codes as a way for visitors to quickly access further multi-media information on site in the early 2000s and enhance the customer experience. But they were underused with uptake limited in the UK.
It is not the pattern globally. In China, consumers are reliant on QR codes for digital interactions, to make financial transactions, to access further information, and to authenticate their identify – all supercharged by the giant WeChat social media platform.
In India too, the QR code has become embedded in consumer life with retailers embracing the technology in their millions. QR codes use is also surging in parts of Europe, USA, Africa and the Middle East. It is inevitable to surge in the UK and is a technology that marketing professionals will need to urgently review.
Modern day marketing is grounded in data and analytics. Digital media has enabled businesses to track consumer behaviour and provide a true measure of their marketing activities, which threatened more traditional printed marketing channels such as advertising, leaflets and posters. After all, if you can’t measure the return on investment on a marketing channel, how can you be sure it is working?
However, the QR code changes all that and will enable businesses to make fuller informed decisions on marketing budgets – and perhaps lead to a comeback for traditional marketing channels?
As consumers become more open to the QR code, it provides businesses with a fresh avenue to reach customers, to better understand their behaviour, to better inform them of their products and services, to better interact with them and ultimately, to sell to them. Perhaps those 1990s trends were not so bad after all?