I'm ready for a QR code to be scanned a billion times. It's going to happen and soon! Read on, and find out why this is just around the corner, more or less. This industry is nascent and has not crossed the chasm, in my humble opinion. But we're close and it's definitely going to happen in this decade.
To date, QR code campaigns have not been blow out successes. I've seen statistics say that 50% of smartphone users have tried scanning a bar code. Maybe that's true. I think that for the majority of those it was a one time thing. They did not have an incredibly pleasurable or meaningful experience, so they never tried it again.
Whatever it is that is going to cause the first billion scans will have to produce a visceral reaction. Neural pathways will have to be lit up as a result of the scan!
What will be the content/fodder/stimulus? What will provide the endorphins, good feelings? Entertainment, amusement? Well, sex sells, and according to some statistics porn accounts for a good chunk of Internet usage, so maybe it will be a sex related video. But you don't need a QR code to see sex on the Internet. I did a quick check on that and I can assure you it's not required. I think the QR code content or event is going to occur at or near the retail counter.
The QR code will have to be disseminated widely - and retail can deliver. Those who are old enough should remember the first McDonald's Monopoly game craze back in the 1980s. People went nuts and stores ran out of the game pieces being given away with each purchase. That was a blowout success! If there was a QR code in the store, and you could scan it with your phone, the store could never run out. Or perhaps the store could print it on a receipt (the Epson TMT-88V receipt printer can print QR codes) - so you would have to buy something to get a contest piece. That probably would get us to a billion. And it wouldn't have to be a billion scans of exactly the same QR code. You could have the receipt printer generate a variety of QR codes. But it could work! McDonalds serves about 60 million customers a day according to Wikipedia. That means it could very easily hit a billion QR code scans in less than a month with an interesting contest related theme. Once the user has scanned, and found out they did not win a prize, a smart marketer could invite them to leave their email address to receive a free consolation prize - like 50 cents off a soda. (Hmmm - how long before someone is marketing an email list of everyone on the planet?)
Or, how about a QR code that produced a different event every time it was scanned. Users could scan it up to say fifty times per day and a computer server would at some point pick a winner. Millions of people would be scanning day and night for weeks to get a chance at a prize!
Readers of this column and visitors to this website are often those involved in the bar code industry as well as bar code enthusiasts and bar code evangelists. You people are on the frontiers of the bar code world, and probably will invent the campaign that is going to change barcoding forever! Are your servers ready for those first billion scans? YouTube's servers have proven that they are ready - and they deliver billions of megabytes per day. What you deliver from your servers will have to be very modest in size. Hint - don't screw it up - if your servers crash as a result of too many scans, it will reflect badly on all of us! A campaign tied into a Facebook page could probably handle it.
The good news for the bar code world, is that during and after a blowout event like a billion scanned codes, consumer acceptance of scanning bar codes will soar to new heights (presumably, so will the value of this domain name :)). Having had a stimulating and pleasurable experience with one QR code, consumers will want to try others to see what type of gratification they can find.
A few "first billions" we've seen lately:
The first billion views on YouTube by a pudgy-faced wannabe rock star singing about Gangnam style. He's an Elvis in his own way. There was something compelling about that video. I watched it a few times. Hmmm, if he had only embedded a QR code link to his website in the video, he probably would have a billion hits on that site by now.
The first billion users on Facebook. Truly a staggering event.
The first billion smartphones. This number was passed last year by all accounts, and we're more than halfway to our second billion.
By the way, arguably, the first billion views of Psy's video occurred about the same time as the number of people owning smartphones crossed a billion. Coincidence? I don't think so. I watched it for the first time on a smartphone after hearing about it from my 12 year old son. Only later did I see it from my desktop.
My prediction - we will see a QR code campaign hit a billion scans within 2 years. Smartphones are like viral gunpowder. They are a chained combustible item and an explosion is easily shared. They will be the tinder for the QR code fire.
Readers - what do you think? How long till we see a billion scans of a QR code?
(A suggestion for marketers - when that code gets scanned, it should produce not only positive visual images, but a pleasing audio. Something short and memorable. A jingle perhaps, or a memorable series of tones - like the five from Close Encounters, or that tone you get from the slot machines in Las Vegas - it's just slightly hypnotic. You kind of want the user to be pressing the button again and again to be fed, or in this case, to stimulate endorphins. We need to get off on the content.)
Written by Craig Aberle
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