3 Reasons You Should NOT use a QR code on a website

image from www.flickr.com A DM in my stream this morning asked if I knew of any posts that specifically talk about why you shoud NOT use a QR code on a webiste. I couldn’t find any quickly, so allow me to create one for you.

I’ve been doing a lot of QR Code Campaign experiments over the last year and thinking about the kinds of content that work well with QR Codes. These thoughts are formed from my own direct interactions, examples of QR code usage I’ve seen in the real world (including the best examples of QR code usage I’ve seen). And based on all of this usage, testing and studying, I just can’t see why you’d put a QR code on a website. And here is why.

  • While QR codes can be “programmed” to link to emails, dial phone numbers, etc., the primary value of them is to instantly transport a consumer from a phyiscal place (ad, direct mail piece, location sign, etc) to a digital destination (contact page, map, menu, video, etc) in a thumb friendly manner. That is to say, QR’s primary value to a consumer is it aleviates the need to type a URL into a smart phone.
  • QR codes are still a nascent technology here in the US. Sure over in Japan and Asia they are widely adopted, often used and pretty much common place. But here in the US, folks are still discoving the technology, hence why you always have to explain what it is/how to use it in an ad, etc., to boost your scanning rates. 
  • QR code scanning requires a dedicated app on the smartphone. Currently very few phones are being shipped with the required app, so if your audience isn’t QR savvy, they likely don’t have the app to scan the code on your website anyways.

Which leads me to the big payoff… the reason I think it’s kind of silly to put a QR code on a website.

The person is already on your website via a computer, which is a far better tool to surf the web, find information and conduct eCommerce than a smartphone.

So, if a consumer is on your website already, why do you need to possibly confuse them with an icon/technology that they quite likely may not understand or be able to access without downloading an app? Why would you want to offload them to an environment that costs additional dollars to develop and is much harder to use (vis-a-vis a computer)?

Sure QR codes are trackable, but then so are websites, and I’m guessing you already have the website analytics tools. So that’s not a good reason.

So is placing a QR code on a website ALWAYS a bad idea?

Actually, no. I think there are a couple of times where a QR code makes sense on a website.

  • You’re giving away a downloadable item designed to work on a smartphone. Things like apps, ringtones, wallpapers, etc. Here a QR code makes it quite easy to begin the process. No typing required.
  • You want the consumer to add address/contact information to their address book. Again, no typing required… I scan, confirm and presto — you or your company information is in my phone.
  • You’re offering some kind of mobile friendly information. For instance, tourism destinations might want to offer a mobile friendly PDF of their vacation guide. A hotel might want to provide a list of key locations near the hotel – restaurants, electronics retailers, bars, etc., in a simple downloadable PDF. Again, QR makes a lot of sense here.

In the end, the greatest value of a QR code is that it instantly transitions a consumer from a mobile/physical place to a digital/web place and vice versa. So if your goal is to transfer between the physical/mobile world and the online/web world (in either direction) a QR code could be the right technology.

But if all you’re doing is putting a QR code on a website because its the cool, hot, trendy technology of the day… well, have fun but I honestly can’t see how you’re helping me move through the buying process, which is the goal of your website to begin with isn’t it?


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About Tom Martin

Tom is 25+ year veteran of the sales & marketing industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and showing companies how to Sell Greatly, and turn conversations into customers. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital sales & marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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