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Are QR codes losing charm?

+ Official Coverage on ZDNet

6 November 2012

Are QR codes losing charm?

In recent years, Quick Response (QR) codes are becoming common in consumer advertising and packaging, as they provide users quick access to the advertised brand’s website and information. However, as newer technologies surface, QR codes need to be used more strategically to better engage customers and prevent elimination.

Leon Perera, Chief Executive of Spire Research and Consulting, commented that QR codes are only being used by a minority of the customers who see them now. He felt that “these codes have gained a foothold in advertising and packaging – partly because they symbolize technological sophistication, not because most customers are actually using them”.

Marketers should be clear on the information they want to push to the consumers through the QR codes, and at the same time, deliver a simple and mobile-optimized user experience. The QR codes should include analytic mechanisms, so that marketers can monitor the user traffic and learn how the users are engaging with the media. Perera added that QR codes have to connect users to information about the brand or product effectively, and that the content should entertain and resonate with the users.

One successful example in Singapore would be Harry’s Bar’s campaign called “Bottle Message”, which leveraged QR codes to double beer sales. During the designated happy hour, the customers would receive a QR code with each purchased bottle of beer. By scanning the QR code using an app, the customers can key in an anonymous message and send the code on another bottle to someone else. The recipient, upon scanning the code, would be able to enter a virtual chat room via the app with the sender.

Other creative examples include the virtual supermarket shelves in South Korea’s subway stations by U.K. retailer Tesco last year, and PayPal which trialed a similar concept on billboards in Singapore in February this year.

Though more users can use their smartphones to read QR codes now, its buy in rate remains low as it faces competition from newer and more promising technologies. Some examples that Perera quoted include augmented reality, near-field communications and mobile visual search.

On the other hand, competition between these technologies is not necessarily a zero-sum game. QR codes are here to stay for now. This is because the QR codes are “very easy to implement, inexpensive, and most importantly, they are openly available to millions of people”.

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