So the owner of a small business wrote in to the business school chair/newspaper columnist seeking advice on QR codes? How relevant will these codes be in the future of marketing? This is a valid question for a small business owner because it gets to the heart of decisions about investing in technology tools. Which ones will deliver the most impact? In the case of QR codes, is it worth the investment? In answering the question the professor took three positions: pessimistic, optimistic and middle of the road. In the worst case scenario, QR code consumers will lack the network access and the willingness to pursue more marketing messages. The opposite optimistic view is that the codes will allow retailers to direct messages at enthusiastic consumers to close the deal. The middle ground says unless QR codes solve real problems for consumers they’ll just be a passing fad. Such an answer presumably leaves the business owner still wondering or wandering, as the case may be.
So how exactly are QR codes being used? Well let us count the ways – some of the ways, that is. The Columbia Sportswear Company puts QR codes on their boxes. Customers can elect to have their goods shipped in a “Box-for-life.” The code on each box leads the customer to discover the history of where the specific box has been. We could ask if you really care about such things, but we won’t. Google sent out window decals with QR codes to the 100,000 most searched U.S. businesses. The codes can lead to fun facts or coupons for the businesses. JC Penney and Dick’s Sporting Goods are among retailers who offer deals via QR codes. If you have a physical copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, you can scan the QR code to get extra digital content. Pepsi delivers games, videos and even “weird and wacky” stuff via the codes. Ultimately QR codes connect people to more information in the form of fun, facts or deals, but they don’t automatically open wallets.