We’ve been talking about QR codes—those slightly out-of-focus, black-and-white squares—for several years now. “Conceptually, this is neat,” writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. “People who are looking at paper but connected to the Internet via their phones can combine the two in one seamless experience.” We see QR Codes everywhere—but do we use them? Not really.
According to comScore, 14 million people—a scant 6.2% of mobile users—scanned a QR code in June. Forrester research found an even slighter number of Americans—5%—use QR codes. And it’s a situation that’s unlikely to change. “[T]here is widespread confusion about how precisely these things are supposed to work,” he notes, “despite years of marketers telling us about them, even among tech-friendly groups like college students.”
One reason might be that there’s little incentive to figure them out. By the time you open the app that scans the QR code, wait for it to focus, and reach the desired content, you could have tapped a keyword into a browser and found an even broader base of information without the narrow focus of a marketing campaign.
This is why the QR code strikes Madrigal as an intermediate technology. “I think print magazine ads work and I think digital campaigns work,” he says. “But when I look at a QR code, I don’t see the future.”