My Take On People's Takes On Google's QR Code Push

So Google made a big push for QR Code usage in the US by sending window decals containing QR Code links to their top 100,000 business listings (via Favorite Places). This effort was covered by TechCrunch (TC) and Mobile Marketing Watch (MMW) among many other tech blogs / news sites out there. For the most part of the articles, they were only a rehash of Google’s original blog post, while the rest contained some original opinions from the authors, and this, along with some short sighted comments, was the part that bugged me.

Let’s start with a paragraph from TC article

Local businesses can also set up coupon offers through their Google directory page, which would turn the QR code into a mobile coupon, and help entice someone standing outside a store to come in: "If you found us on Google, you get 20% off."

MMW not only copied exactly the same paragraph, but also added

This is where the true benefit lies.

And my take is… Coupon only benefits if you want to attract potential customers not standing outside a store, e.g. if you do a Google search and you find the Google directory page along with a coupon from the said business. On the other hand, if you do want to attract someone nearby your store, surely a large 20% discount or a SALE sign will do a better job than a garble of black and white dots inside a square.

I think the true benefits of having those QR Codes placed on the door of your restaurant/store are

  1. To convince the potential customers to use your business by exposing them to positive reviews and ratings. This is why Google only sent the window decals to their top listings, businesses having negative reviews might not be so keen.

  2. To increase the possibility of those (potential) customers revisiting your business by providing them with the address, map, and contact details. This replaces the traditional role of business cards.

Both points are nothing new, they already exist all along with print media (brochures, business cards) and human interaction (conversation, words of mouth). Brochures and business cards will eventually run out and there’s a limit to the number of people you can reach by talking directly to the person. So you move those content online, in this case as a Google business listing. And what is the easiest way to link you and those online content? QR Code! QR Code is the simplest mechanism to retrieve those content (point and click) and to keep the content with you (as a url bookmark on your mobile phone).

And next up is a question asked by MMW that’s already answered by the two points above.

... which begs the questions why would someone need the information if they're already standing in front of the business?

The same reason why businesses often place their brochures containing those information (including address and contact details), right in front of the store itself? To attract passers by, to get them to enter their store.

Moving on to another point from MMW

Still, I think the learning curve associated with QR-codes and the device limitations will hinder the campaign from the beginning.

While I agree with the device limitations argument (considering we’re talking about the US here, and not Japan), I don’t think learning curve would be an issue. When I visited Japan, where QR Codes were everywhere, I saw elderly people scanning those codes with their phone just fine. If pointing and clicking using a mobile phone camera became a hindrance, then I seriously question the future of humanity.

Another point from MMW

iPhones and Android-based phones are the only devices capable of easily obtaining a QR-code reader support.

The definition of ‘easily’ is arguable, but here’s an extensive list of mobile phones with QR Code reader support.

And the last point from MMW

Google better provide extensive and informative call-to-actions with their decals to get people interested and informed about how it all works.

I think the demo video from Google is informative enough. I don’t think Google should emphasize on getting people interested. What’s better for Google to do is to make it easy for people to use this piece of technology. If it’s useful and easy to use, then people will eventually be interested.

Google needs to improve the availability of QR Code reader on more devices, just like what they’ve done with Barcode Scanner and zxing project. Perhaps Google should acquire QuickMark and release the iPhone app for free. I’m not sure whether people will be happy to pay $1.99 just to do something with those decals (considering Google suggested QuickMark app, and assuming the free readers weren’t that good). The Google-sponsored 40,000 downloads is definitely a nice start on their behalf.

Now, moving on to the comments on the TC article…

lewis shepherd said

Google proving it is a “fast follower,” copying Microsoft yet again. []( . Not only following the technology,...

and Tim Acheson said

Microsoft had already launched their own barcode solution, Microsoft Tag

and LS sarcastically said

Microsoft once again copying Google’s barcode solution.

I love it when people disregard the fact that QR Code was created by Denso-Wave in 1994 and it has been a royalty-free technology. These people tend to think that innovation only comes out of either Google, Microsoft, or Apple.

One of the few comments that I like was from Research who said

Guys did you hear something about geotagging? Why do you need a sticker if you just can be next to the store pull your mobile phone and start the app which shows you whatever info you want to know about the area?

My respond to this is that ‘the sticker’ is useful as an indicator that the store has an online presence on Google directory page and that the store is a place worth checking. Imagine having a day trip and there are 15 stores that you find interesting, are you going to pull your phone each time and hope that the place you’re standing in front of has been geotagged or is listed on Google / other sites?

Geotagging will make these window decals (not QR Code itself) obsolete when Apple offers iHuman app implant that connects your offline physical world to online data.

Back to the comments… there were also quite a number of people talking about how Google has become too big, a monopoly, and I quote,

It’s one huge shark swallowing it all up.

I think despite how Google is becoming more and more evil, like Microsoft was back in the 90s, I’m glad that they keep pushing technologies that simplify life. And if they make tons of money out of the whole process, they do deserve it.

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