5 Reasons QR codes won’t be around in 12 Months

Posted on 16. Sep, 2011 by in Digital Marketing

I keep reading articles about how QR codes are coming of age, and their usage is growing. But I can’t help sitting back and thinking “really?“. For the last few years I have been a huge QR code advocate, and I can see the benefits of QR codes for integrating offline and online marketing campaigns.  Since the introduction of NFC however, my advocacy has dwindled, so I thought I’d stick my neck on the line and say QR codes will not be around in a year. Here are my six reasons why:

1) Usage of QR codes by the average person on the street is low

Many believe QR codes are over-rated. A recent survey conducted by the team at Lab42 found that almost 60% of people say they are not familiar with QR codes. In general, all the positive articles written about QR codes are from mobile or digital marketing people. The mainstream population don’t talk about QR codes. Unlike consumers in Japan, it’s not in our DNA to scan a barcode with our mobile phones. A similar, recent econsultancy survey also found that the vast majority of consumers don’t know what QR codes are. I don’t see this changing, especially if NFC-enabled smartphones become the norm.

2) NFC is faster, more convenient, and no apps are required

Poor QR Code Placement

QR code scanning - stepladders required. Image credit @MikeNotaro

For those who know about, and understand QR codes, scanning them still requires finding an app, downloading the app, then using the app. And then there’s the actual scanning itself. Some QR code placements are very poor – giant billboards on skyscrapers, behind staircases, and many will remember the Waitrose TV ad placement of a QR code last Christmas. This was a great idea…except the ad didn’t explain what the code was, or air long enough for users to scan the code. #fail.

Compared to the simplicity of NFC (which comes pre-installed on some smartphones) QR codes appear slow and clunky. Whilst the potential of NFC goes beyond contactless payment, UK consumers attitudes say it would make like simpler. If NFC technology is pre-installed on the new iPhone, QR codes may go the way of the dodo.

3) Connectivity

As with the image above, QR codes are often used in places which require a 3G or Wifi connection. For example in-store, or in adverts on the underground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the same issue for mobile internet browsing and app usage, but placements need to improve if QR codes are going to succeed.

4) Google dropped support for QR codes

There has been a lot of debate over the consequences and repercussions of Google’s move to drop QR codes for Google Places. Instead, Google started mailing out NFC-enabled stickers to businesses in Portland, Oregon – one of the locations Google were testing their new Offers product. Others argue that Google hasn’t abandoned QR codes just yet, especially following their acquisition of Punchd. Punchd is essentially a loyalty programme for retailers. Say, for example, MR.s X’s coffee shop uses Punchd. The customer scans a QR code with their phone each time they buy a coffee or a muffin. They are then rewarded with a free coffee or muffin once they have scanned the code five times. In my opinion, this current QR code based strategy will be replaced with NFC.

5) Unlike NFC, there are no jobs directly related to QR codes

If you’re looking for a job in mobile, it’s likely you won’t find one titled ‘QR Code Manager’. On the other hand, many companies already have a ‘Head of NFC’. Jeremy Belostock, is the Head of NFC at Nokia. Claire Maslen is the Head of Near Field Communication at O2. Mung-Ki Woo was Head of NFC at Orange, but has now joined MasterCard Worldwide as its mobile group executive. NFC is so broad and can be used for so many different marketing, communication, and loyalty programs, it’s difficult to see where QR codes will fit into the picture in 12 months time.

What’s your opinion? Are QR codes alive and kicking, or is NFC sounding the death knoll?

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  • http://about.me/andrewgirdwood Andrew Girdwood

    I enjoy these debates with Simon – especially when he’s so easily wrong. I think the threat to QR codes come from smartphones with simple and effective object recognition capabilities. Google’s latest enhancement to Goggles is a classic example of this. 

    In the mean time we’ve got everything from newspapers to magazines who can and should print QR codes, individual to each print, for local offers and commission based advertising. There will be QR codes on the back of books, blu-ray boxes, on posters, menus, flyers and dozens of other items that are too low cost for NFC. As these become more common, more people will use QR and there will be more reason to place them on products.

    I can see QR codes going but I think they’ll still be here next year. Or am I wrong? :)

  • Anonymous

    Loathe as I am to agree with Girdy, I do not see NFC getting rid of QR codes any time soon.  I do hear a lot of anti QR sentiment, but most of it is from those who do not use them, much as anti-twitter sentiment was.

    QR codes are superb medium, particularly for taking a smartphone user to a deep linked URL.

    Yes, the technology will eventually be replaced by something better, but within a year? I will happily bet against that.

  • Simon Barron

    Qr Codes will always remain .


    Because a qr code is free to generate.Try funding a 1000 flyer mail out with nfc .Qr Codes will always have their place nd advertisers will continue to use them because they allow advertisers to track their offline advertising from almost any printed flat surfaced medium..

    Qr Codes will always remain and will continue to grow in popularity as users become aware of how easy they are to use and the massive increase of new marketing strategies that have now became available since qr codes integrated with mobile web and smart phone technology have surfaced.

  • Danielle Reed

    Is blippar a QR Code Killer ? http://goo.gl/Km4sM

  • http://twitter.com/bmmSimon Simon Heyes

    Just to be clear, I’m still a fan of QR codes, I just think they will be replaced by a more sophisticated technology, be that NFC, Blippar or something else. Is 12 months too short a time? Mobile is moving fast, so I don’t think it is.

  • http://twitter.com/KarlieMacG Karlie MacGregor

    You say Tomato, I say tomato, You say Foursquare, I say QR codes….. same argument, no?