QR codes 101: What those squiggles do
Quick Response (QR) codes link consumers to websites fast. Here's how to use them, and why you'd want to.
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Perhaps that's why a study from the digital analysts at comScore found that of the 14 million Americans who used QR codes in June, by far the largest group (58 percent) did so in the comfort of their homes – scanning magazines, newspaper ads, food labels, etc. (Still, comScore estimates that only 6 percent of all smart-phone owners scanned a QR code that month.)Skip to next paragraph
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"It will take some effort to convince consumers that this is worth their time," says Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer in New York.
Some of the best examples, he says, are rolling into retail stores, the second most popular place for QR scans.
Earlier this year, Home Depot introduced a sweeping QR program. Its codes, attached to print ads and products throughout the store, bring up instructional videos and how-to demonstrations.
Of course, since smart phones have their own Web browsers, Home Depot could have simply handed out addresses to the same online information. But QR codes require zero typing and get shoppers to the information faster – at least in theory.
"We know that consumers are doing more in-store shopping than [a few years ago]," says Mr. Elkin, referring to an upcoming study by his firm. Shoppers "want extra information, such as reviews, before pulling out their wallets. But because of smart phones, they no longer need to wait until they get home. They can get much more information while they're in the store."
Movies and video games sneak QR codes into the scenery, giving fans an optional peek behind the curtain. For example, this year's gaming hit Deus Ex: Human Revolution has put the markers on in-game objects. Scanning them with real-world phones leads players to the website for the fictional company behind the game's mystery.
The Christian Science Monitor puts these codes on its print pages to link readers to extra articles, online photo galleries, or videos. (The magazine recently switched from the colorful triangles of Microsoft Tags to the more popular black-and-white QR codes. Several other styles exist, but in most cases, they each require a separate phone app to work.)
"Very few people are actually going to do this this way," Mathieson says, noting that while QR codes have a much broader audience overseas, Americans have been slow to accept them. "But it will start to catch on over time."