Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Will QR Codes Fly or Die in 2012?
What’s Ahead for Barcodes By Nancy Pekala

Marketers have a penchant for gleefully pronouncing the death of the latest trend or technology. First it was email. As of late, QR Codes seem to be heralded as the next latest, greatest trend to bite the dust. But will it?

Without question, 2011 was the year for QR Code chatter. Some heralded mobile barcode technology as the next big thing while others dismissed it as merely a fad.

Despite its success in Japan where Denso Wave first developed them in 1994, QR (Quick Response) codes have struggled in the U.S. to find practical applications. Many have criticized the codes as merely being a fad and a transitional technology to something bigger and better. However, research indicates these barcodes will live well beyond 2012.

Consider the results of a survey of 415 smartphone users earlier last year by Baltimore-based agency MGH. The research revealed that 70% of survey participants were interested in using QR Codes. This percentage included both would-be first timers, and those who had scanned the codes with their smartphones in the past. While the MGH survey also indicated the actual usage of QR Codes lags behind widespread deployment, the rapid growth of tablets and smartphones may soon narrow the gap.

A study Comscore conducted last summer found that “6.2% of the total mobile audience scanned a QR code on their mobile device” in a 1-month period. In comparison, a recent Pew study found that 28% use mobile/social location based services.

B.L. Ochman, president of whatsnextonline.com and an internet marketing strategist and blogger, suggested in a recent AdAge article that it’s not the barcodes that should die, but rather the “dumb ways agencies and brands try to use them.” That being said, QR Codes continue to grow on consumers.

For example, Ochman cited these 2011 Q3 global stats for QR code use from research firm 3Gvision via 2D Code blog editor Roger Smolski:
1.) QR Code usage is growing worldwide. Q3/2011 usage grew by 20% over Q2/2011 usage, with daily scans conducted from 141 different countries.
2.) Barcode usage in North America continued to expand in Q3 with 42.1% growth in the U.S. and 35.1% growth in Canada compared to Q2/2011
3.) QR code activity in Spain and Australia showed a significant growth in Q3 of 66.5%, and 50.9% respectively over Q2/2011.

What’s Ahead for QR Codes in 2012?
Clearly, the forecast of the death of QR Codes is premature. Mobile barcodes continue to gain traction with consumers, but marketers and brands will need to be creative about how they use this technology moving forward in order to produce better consumer experiences.

NeoMedia Technologies, Inc., a global mobile barcode management solutions company, took a peek into its crystal ball and shared these industry predictions for 2012:

 QR codes will dominate. While mobile barcodes will continue to gain traction thanks to increasing smartphone penetration, greater consumer awareness as well as brand confidence and understanding around mobile barcodes, QR codes will continue to be the dominant 2D symbology, becoming the most utilized by marketers across all sectors.

 QR codes front and center: In 2012, mobile barcode scanning applications will increasingly be integrated into brand and retail mobile marketing applications to enable greater consumer participation, expanded loyalty initiatives and overall enhanced consumer experience when in store. In addition, hardware solutions at retail will support mobile barcode scanning on a much wider basis in 2012.

 Mobile barcode campaigns will get creative. Innovation will be critical to QR Code campaigns. In 2012, barcode campaigns will become more than just a way to direct consumers to the web and instead take center stage in campaign design.

 1D scanning will be on the rise. While 2D scanning will continue to grow, there will be continued growth of 1D for extended packaging, promotion, loyalty, and advertising. Major industry bodies, like GS1, will continue to work to enhance the product information behind the scan, to ensure a more positive consumer experience and more accurate data. The influence of barcode scanning on the consumer’s shopping habits will continue to grow as marketers further engage with mobile barcodes.

 Mobile web takes center stage. 2012 will see a noticeable shift toward the mobile web due to three major factors:
The ubiquity of the web cross platform; and Cost associated with developing applications across multiple platforms; and, The experiences enabled by a mobile web environment.
This rise in mobile web will directly correlate to the rise of mobile barcodes. Mobile barcodes make it easier than ever to connect to the mobile web (no more typing cumbersome URLs). Instead, consumers can connect quickly to a mobile website with a simple barcode scan.

 U.S. emerges as a market leader. The U.S. market will dominate mobile marketing globally as smartphones, tablets and other internet devices increasingly become ubiquitous. In the US, expect smartphones to hold the lion’s share of the market by the end of 2012.

“2011 has seen enormous growth in the penetration and usage of mobile barcodes. Brand owners, retailers and consumers are all becoming more familiar with 2D codes and the value they can offer,” said Laura Marriott, CEO of NeoMedia.

Nancy Pekala is the Senior Director of Online Marketing for the AMA and Editor of Marketing Researchers. Continue the conversation in AMAConnectTM, the AMA’s online community exclusively for marketing professionals. Follow us on Twitter @marketing_power.