Are QR Codes Dead ?

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So you probably know … QR Code was invented in 1994 (yap, 20 years ago) by Denso Wave. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now are used in a much broader context especially in mobile, for example to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a webpage thru Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message.

However, just a silly question, how many times have you scanned a QR Code ? Say in the last 30 days ? Let me ask again in greater details, how many times have you picked up your phone, started up the phone, run the scanning app, pointed the phone to the QR Code, and scanned it (provided you have the QR Code in focus and in good light) ?

Two and a half years ago, Forbes asked the question “Are QR Codes dead ?”. And this question was raised many times in the past two years (you can Google it), but still there is no firm answer. In fact, the other 2D code technology Microsoft Tag is closing down soon.

So I did a test … I picked up one San Francisco Chronicle (a daily newspaper for the greater San Francisco area), and flipped through all the pages with an aim to find one QR code to scan. And the result – none. Nothing. Yap there is no single QR code in the whole newspaper.

So why are QR Codes so popular in Japan, Korea, China and also picking up speed in Hong Kong, but yet no one is really using it in a high-tech city like San Francisco ? There are many different reasons from IT and marketing experts, but I think the real reason is – the English language.

Imagine your small company (“Company”) is running a promotional campaign and want your target customers to browse your company website like http://www.COMPANY.com, or call the toll free number – 1-800-COMPANY. It may be pretty easy to do it in North America, just print the ad in newspaper with the website address and the phone number.

But what if your target customers are not that fluent in English ? What if it is hard for them to memorise your company name, the website address etc. ? Naturally, I think one solution is to use QR Code and I think that is why it’s popular in non-English speaking countries – Japan, Korea, China, as most (if not all) website addresses are composed in English language characters.

With all that said, still QR Code will give it another try, as the Merchant Customer Exchange in US is rolling out a new payment gateway CurrentC, with an attempt to kill Apple Pay (and also Credit Card fee). The whole idea of the payment gateway is to use QR Code to link the transaction to your bank account.

So, may be, let’s visit this question “Are QR Codes dead ?” again in two years time. Stay tuned.

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