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Quick response codes (known as QR codes) have been on the scene for a number of years, and it seems as though they’re plastered everywhere.

Yet utilising the technology for marketing purposes continues to face a significant hurdle: consumers still have no idea what they are, or how to use them.

If anyone was going to know what they do, it would be university students, and even they  aren’t too sure.

A recent survey of 534 US students from 24 campuses across the country was conducted, whereby respondents were shown a picture of a QR code and then asked questions such as ‘Can you identify what this is?’ ‘Do you know how to use it?’ and ‘How likely are you to engage with these in the future?’

The study by marketing firm Archrival found:

  • 81% of students owned a smartphone
  • 80% of students had previously seen a QR code
  • Just 21% of students successfully scanned the QR code example
  • 75% of students said they were “Not Likely” to scan a QR code in the future

Key difficulties for the students included thinking that taking a picture would scan it, not wanting to download the app, and believing the process took too long.

However, complementary research has also found that when coupled with compelling content, consumers will respond to QR codes, and are willing to take advantage of what is being marketed.

One example of this is the e-voucher or ‘digital coupon’ market, which utilises the stalwart popularity of coupons. Unlike their paper relatives, digital coupons capitalise on consumers’ willingness to seek and compare deals online.

According to research conducted by eMarketer, some 92.5 million US consumers redeemed a digital coupon in 2012, and this number is expected to increase significantly in 2013.

The vouchers have also been touted as a pawn to play in the struggle for bricks and mortar retailers to compete with their online counterparts. Redeeming the digital coupons requires in-store redemption, and those with the app installed on their smartphone receive location alerts and expiry alerts when they’re near a store utilising the vouchers.

Australian-based technology and advertising company, VOUCHR, runs one such smartphone app. In the case of VOUCHR, the system uses a downloadable smartphone app with which customers scan the QR codes in print ads or input them from broadcast commercials. The app stores the offers and presents them to the customer when they are near the relevant retailer.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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