Say NO to QR Codes
I've got some very direct advice for anyone who is tempted to get involved in the world of QR codes. Don't do it.
It is quite simply a technology looking for a problem. They were origionally designed by Toyota technicians to help out in tracking cars in their factories. Its clever technology and can be explained to non-technical types as a 2D barcode that delivers signficantly more information, faster than the ones we're used to. The question I've put to people who said this to me is 'so what and who cares?'. I've yet to get a satisfactory answer.
With the ubiquity of mobile phones and particularly their cameras it became possible, for the first time, to deploy QR codes directly to the public. The phone acted as a scanner and the QR codes were cheap and very accurate to read. All that was needed was a problem that needed this as solution. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for QR reveals a paucity of applications.
That being said there are lessons to be learned from QR initiatives.
This is not really much to do with QR per se but could help us resist the seductive idea of a technology and focus more on the business value its application and deployment may bring. In the spirit of outside thinking I noticed a new startup, Doxo. They use QR to store documents in a way that hasn't been thought of before. I wish them well but there is nothing about their proposition that fundamentally changes the way I'd manage my documents and it certainly isn't worth the bother of getting a QR scanning/photo app loaded onto my already sluggish phone.
There are quite a lot of details about why the system is good, so many that its almost impossible to absorb.
One of the features is to use QR codes to be sent to customers of utlitity companies who can then scan the code, link to the online bill and then automagically add the bill into their digital file system. As an aspirate technogeek I can appreciate that taking bills from one system (e.g. phone provider) into my own (doxo) would enable me to see all my bills in one place. One day this may well happen but I'm sure that it won't be called doxo.
Here's why. It is far from clear that I need to use Doxo. There are vey many reasons but none is compelling in its own right. 'Remove paper clutter'? Ok fine but I don't believe it and in any case there are QR codes involved.
Another feature they offer is the ability to quickly pay the QR linked bill in question using my mobile payment feature on my phone. Setting aside the questionable desire to 'pay my bills more quickly' lets consider the financial services aspect. The bill comes from a supplier of services who has signed up to the QR system (a pretty small percentage I imagine) and this can be paid for by a range of mobile based payment services (a small but growing percentage of users). The net effect is that the venn diagram intersection is too small to be interesting. There will be no paradigm shift in this space as too many variables need to align before we hit the tipping point.
So far, so negative. I have a positive message but in fact its really a warning. If you are going to talk to clients about how to deliver services that their customers will love then:
- Make sure that the technology is likely to have widespread adoption
- Make sure that your client is thinking about the customer directly and not in some abstract form or about some dimensional technology. Customers don't wake up thinking they want to pay bills more effectively.
Finally if you are not sure about what your customer wants then you should ask. If you are not sure about a technology then do some research.