QR (Quick Response) codes are the new fashion in marketing and ‘new media’ initiatives. But what are they, and are they really useful?
QR codes are ‘two-dimensional’ barcodes printed on products, business cards, posters etc, and encode information such as a webpage hyperlink. Modern smartphones equipped with a camera and access to the internet can be used to snap a quick picture of the code, which quickly takes the user to the intended supplementary content of interest. This might be a product webpage, demonstration video, pdf download or any other information to support the product / poster / article in question.
QR codes at conferences and shows
One place I see QR codes taking off within the life science arena is via company booths, posters and presentations at shows and conferences. For example, QR codes for demo videos would allow potential customers to visit a booth, discuss a product, watch a video on their phone and take that info away with them to assist with their buying decision.
In the same way, people scribble copious amounts of notes while walking around poster presentations (such as those providing data to back up claims about a company’s new product) … it would be much more efficient to just download a high quality version of the poster pdf to your phone by snapping a QR code. This could be combined with url tracking to provide analytics (number of QR-related downloads for example) or for lead generation via ‘sign-up to download’ microsites.
Encouraging consumers to use QR codes
At present the main hold up preventing the widespread use of QR codes is to question who are actually using smart phones and QR codes (is it really the decision makers / influencers?). Fortunately for our sector, scientists often tend to be technologically aware and many post-docs, group leaders, senior lab managers etc are already using smart phones to manage data and collaborations, keep in contact with friends and colleagues and perform web-based research.
Therefore, perhaps the main remaining stumbling block to the widespread adoption of QR codes is the continued consumer education required to emphasise how quick, easy and valuable QR codes are for accessing high quality, relevant information?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of QR codes – feel free to leave a comment below!