Is the QR Code a Thing of the Past?

QR codes have been around since their invention in 1994 by Denso Wave. Many brands have used them to engage their customers via smartphones and other mobile devices.

But with the introduction of image recognition in more recent years, is there really any need for QR codes anymore? In 2013, image recognition’s use in magazines went up from 6.1% to 60.3% in just one year, outperforming QR codes by almost 40%.

It would appear that Apple are a bit late to the party as they have only just announced their addition of a QR reader into their camera despite the reality that, for some countries, QR code scanning simply isn’t commonplace among consumers.

So is the QR code a thing of the past? Is it time for Augmented Reality and image recognition to take over? Let’s look at exactly why image recognition may be a better solution for brands with a rundown of the most notable disadvantages of QR codes:

  1. For starters, they are unsightly. They simply aren’t attractive for the consumer to look at regardless of the type of packaging surrounding the product. In addition, many consumer packaged goods companies believe that dedicating valuable space to a standard UPC code and a QR code is excessive.
  2. A consumer has to capture the specific section where the QR code is.
  3. In order to scan it, most smartphones require a speciality application. The problem here is that a consumer will only have that app if they are specifically looking to scan a QR code.
  4. It usually takes a long time for a QR code to scan.
  5. Brands don’t usually give any special benefits to users as an incentive to scan the codes.

Taking all of this into account from a consumer's point of view, is scanning a QR code really worth the time or the effort?

A 2013 survey found that only 21% of American smartphone owners say they’ve ever scanned a QR code, with 2% saying they scan a QR code at least once per day. We can see that as the number of smartphone users continues to rise, the number of consumers scanning the codes remains the same. And to top it all off, in 2012, 97% of consumers didn't even know what a QR code was.

But what about image recognition? In contrast, it allows consumers to scan the entire image or object from difficult angles and low light conditions. In addition, the entire image can be recognizable and no extra graphic marker is needed for it to function effectively.

So what is the best solution for brands if they really want to engage their new and existing customers? Image recognition allows a brand to retain the original packaging of a product, meaning that they don’t have to subject their customers to scanning unsightly QR codes that require time and effort in order to fully function. There is also no need for the consumer to download an external application- a mobile web browser is enough.

So it could be said that QR codes are losing their relevance in a world where consumers are surrounded by Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. And with image recognition constantly advancing, we could see a surge in A.R.-powered customer engagement campaigns carried out by brands in the very near future.