Quick Response (QR) codes are either poised to take off in 2012 or eventually join the junk heap of other tech flops such as the Apple Newton and Internet currency (remember Flooz and Beenz?). While the emergence of other technologies such as near field communications and digital watermarks may shape the durability of QR, ultimately, the potential for the technology rests with how effectively companies place customers at the center of their QR efforts.For starters, it's important for companies to offer and promote the right incentives for customers to use QR codes. This includes educating consumers about what QR codes are and how they can be used. There needs to be a compelling reason for customers to stop whatever it is they're doing - say at a shopping mall or sporting event - and make use of the technology. Offer customers a chance to win a contest or to download a free song.
Although its use of QR codes wasn't enough to lift holiday sales and prevent the company from having to close more than 100 Kmart stores, Sears offers a compelling example for making QR codes useful for customers. Sears allows customers to scan QR codes with their smartphones while shopping in their stores. The service prevents shoppers from having to lug merchandise around the store while they continue shopping for other items while allowing customers to pick up ordered merchandise from a convenient pick-up location once they've completed their purchases.
As my colleague Cynthia Clark wrote about in October, many marketers are missing prime opportunities to use QR codes to surprise and delight and deeply engage customers. Instead, many companies are often leading those who do scan to static websites that aren't optimized for mobile. Those types of experiences will leave customers feeling flat and less willing to scan QR codes in the future.
The viability of QR will be put to the test this year in major venues such as the 2012 London Olympic Games and Super Bowl XLVI. The degree to which marketers and other decision-makers make QR promotions customer centric and how customers respond will shed light on the future of this latest tech fad.