My first job was a Barcode Sales Engineer. Back then in the pre-millenium days, it was the coolest thing! Then they announced the 2D barcodes, or barcodes that came mostly in a square. There were many different standards like Data Matrix code, EZcode, Maxicode and the QR code. What was amazing about it was that It could store way more characters than a linear barcode could without extending the length or size of the code. It was so useful that many manufacturing industry started using it in everything they do. They even had 2D barcodes etched onto microchips! Unfortunately, the cost of the 2D barcode readers then cost a premium that it doesn't make sense to apply it in the consumer space. Not sure whether anyone remembered the Zapcode that was all over the local newspaper pages many years ago. It disappeared.


Fast forward to today. QR code now is free because our mobile devices now becomes a free reader! It seems to be the cool thing to use for marketers and sometimes even a default feature to offer by mobile developers because for one, QR code is definitely better than using passwords or pin which is easier to be disclosed and burdensome for your staff to remember the hourly and daily passwords. Because marketers have a budget to work with and anything free is worth to explore and use,  you start seeing QR codes everywhere and on nearly everything!

But, when was the last time you actually scanned one of them?

Here are the 4 main QR code problems every marketer choose to ignore.

1) Users feel awkward scanning a QR code. 

Everyone nearby knows when you are scanning a QR code. Assuming you already had downloaded a QR code reader app, you be hunched over a paper with your phone , give a few seconds for your camera to focus then, Surprise! A webpage loads. I prefer a short URL to type instead, that i can catch at 1 glance and type it in while i walk away. Frankly , the QR code only but saves me a few seconds. 

2) QR code can be duplicated

Not every QR code loads a webpage. Some clever developers have used it for validation purposes. Like redeeming a e-ticket or e-coupon. They even used it for educational trails that they hide tidbits of information along the way behind the QR codes. I do agree that it will be fun and intriguing for the children. Then these develops would bring this fabulous idea to the retailers and malls to implement this great idea. Here's a way to cheat at that game, only 1 person is required to play it. Snap a picture of all the QR codes and share it with everyone on your favourite social media. Now, all you need to do is scan the photo of the QR code. Trust me, it will work if the photo isn't blurred. This brings us to the next point.

3) QR code can be damaged

If you take a QR code and colour in on some white areas of the code with a black marker or scratch out the black, the QR code will be rendered useless and unscannable. Sometimes, some creative designers will colour in the QR code with silver on black, depending on how powerful your QR code reader app is in working out contrast, i doubt any users will be patient enough to try to scan it. There's also QR codes found on receipts to allow you to collect points at some retailers. Ensure that the code is not half torn or fade is you want your points.

4) It's not easy telling the QR codes apart

The correct way to redeem a QR code voucher is to use a proper reader to scan it , allow the system to validate the voucher whether it has been redeemed before, then reward your customers. Unfortunately, this is not the practise for many retailers because it will create a long queue and the cashier is not going to wait while the system checks. What they do is to collect the QR code vouchers first and scan it only at the end of the day. They might find some culprits that have given 2 similar QR codes to them and have already walked away with the goodies or discounts. To us humans, all barcodes look the same. 

So is being "free" worth the problems above? It has been 18 years (1997) since the QR code was invented. In this day and age, there are already a couple of technologies that are more in-trend and effective that should be explored.