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Who Killed the QR Code? Are the Alternatives the Next to Die?

  • April 19 2016


The death of QR codes due to phone manufacturers not adopting the technology and failing to include a QR code reader as part of the phone’s built-in app package has been an ever-present discussion in marketing for some time now. Yes, the QR code has died…and, with all things technology based, once proclaimed as dead it STAYS dead.

We were early adopters of placing those abstract-art-looking white and black boxes in all of our patient-facing printed materials for our clients’ studies, but also placing them in our patient videos. That way, potential patients didn’t have to remember a long URL or manually type it into their browser — they just needed to scan the box to instantly arrive at the study website. It was the great techno-revolution for getting people to the study website quickly, which is tremendously important in patient recruitment.

So what’s going to replace the QR code for linking the printed world with the web? We have been searching for an answer, but unfortunately, we believe that currently there are simply no viable replacements. If we’re going to replace the QR code with something else, it has to do what QR codes did — give users immediate access to a website from a printed piece.

Some are touting the SnapTag as the QR code replacement. But, this requires several steps to get from a scan of printed material to a website. For those of you who love their text application this may be a preferred method of accessing the web, but we believe the programming required PLUS the several steps to get to a website will result in another failure to adopt scenario. And, it’s also a third party application. Our take: Won’t live long enough to see widespread success.

Google Goggles, one of many Alternative Reality (AR) applications, is an interesting tool that can access web searches based upon a scan of a logo and other identifying information. This is a great tool if the study website shows up high on the organic search results or if you link it to an online search campaign. It requires no programming in the printed materials, however it still requires, much like the QR code, a third party application from Google…and…here it is…wait for it…only available for Android devices. Our take: No iOS, no long-term success. Like Google Glass, its days are numbered.

Ricoh’s Clickable Paper looks interesting, much like QR coding without the unsightly code box. It uses hot spots printed in the materials to access multiple links. You can program the links to access social media pages, a website, and more. The most impressive features, we find, are the ability to link to maps and directions, make a call directly from the app and save all the information into its own browser-styled link file. The third party application is free to download for Apple iOS and Android. It does require using Ricoh’s cloud server and an authoring application, which does come at a cost for developers. Our take: Life support is a possibility, but cost and refinements to printed pieces may keep it from living a long life.

The problem with the QR code’s application not being built into the system by the phone manufacturers is most often cited as the usual suspect in the death of the QR code. And so far, the current alternative solutions all require a third-party app which, most likely, will lead them to the same fate as the QR code.

RIP QR codes…you will be missed.