QR Codes vs Mobile Visual Search (MVS)

In the past year, QR codes gradually begun to appear on everything and anything, often in unscannable locations and directing users to content that isn’t mobile optimised. Some notable examples of major QR code misuse include featuring them on posters in tube stations deep underground with no mobile signal, and on top of buildings in the vague hope that Google Earth users (and helicopter pilots?) might happen to find it and be interested…

As a result, there has been much speculation and discussion surrounding their future and whether we’ll still be seeing these codes adorning marketing materials for much longer now that the novelty has worn off for many. Certainly in their early days as a marketing tool, great publicity was created by astute early adopters through mysterious or attention grabbing campaigns, but originality and creativity seems to have ground to a halt.

QR codes present a wealth of potential in bridging the gap between the offline and online, whether they be on posters, billboards, buildings or shopping receipts, but problems aren’t few and far between. A vast amount of QR codes are implemented without any mobile strategy in mind, offering nothing of value to the consumer – in fact, research suggests that fewer than 1 in 3 people who have scanned a QR code say that what they see in return is usually worth their time. Furthermore, QR codes present a number of security risks as the user often has no idea what a scan will result in. Therefore there have been numerous occurrences of infected QR codes being placed over legitimate examples with data grabbing and viruses resulting.

So, if QR codes are heading for the ever expanding digital marketing scrapheap, what’s next? The answer appears most likely to be Mobile Visual Search (MVS) – a safer and more interactive and usable alternative. All you need to do is take a photo of a product or logo on your smartphone and your MVS app will provide you with company, product, landmark or promotion information. This is essentially a similar functionality to that of the upcoming Google Goggles. The possibilities are vast

It appears that MVS will result in our currently abundant monochrome square codes seeing a quick response for their quick removal. It is going to be exciting to see how swiftly MVS becomes a common practice and how effectively and creatively brands can implement it. Watch this space!

Paul Jackson

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

With almost a decade of experience in digital marketing, both in-house and agency-side, Paul is a CIM qualified Chartered Marketer with expertise and a refreshing approach. Paul’s experience with a diverse mix of brands in a wide range of industries has allowed him to see first-hand the importance of a tailored and business-oriented approach to marketing.