We have all seen QR Codes appearing more frequently. I have been trying to figure out if they are more than a “nice to have” product, that is a solution looking for a problem to solve.

QR Codes have been appearing more on the web. For example, the site TidBITS.com has been using them on its articles, on the bottom right of every page. I am starting to notice these codes on business cards, just like people started putting pictures of themselves on their cards years ago.

Despite increasing use, I think QR Codes are a prime illustration of a “nice to have” product. Why do I think this? Its because QR Codes, per se, serve no essential purpose. They are a component of something larger like salt, or a spice. QR’s are handy but they don’t do anything so unique that they enter the “must have” category. Originally designed to save time, I believe they are too late. I speculate that tools that enable interacting with voice on mobile phones will eclipse QRs. Examples are Apple’s  Siri for the iPhone 4S, or the Google Search app that runs on Andoid and iPhones. These are starting to enter the mainstream, propelled by their usefulness.

This is a strong statement. I would love to be proven wrong in this assessment. Below I’ll present an case study showing why I think QR Codes will stay nice to have.

While sorting through some mail from brokerage Charles Schwab I received a glossy promoting their service. Why they sent this is a mystery. I have gone “paperless” and receive electronic statements.  Schwab was promoting their mobile apps for the iPhone and Android. One capability of their app made it a “must have” for me — the ability to take a picture of a check and deposit it directly. Other banks are starting to offer this capability. This is certainly a must have feature for many people because it saves time and offers a lot of convenience. I can’t’ wait until Citibank offers this, too.

Printed on the side of Schwab’s glossy was the QR image featured in this post. Twice in this mailing Schwab demonstrates that making things easy for their customers is very important to them. Saving customers time is a must have capability in their  marketing. I scanned it on my iPhone and their code links to this page on the Mac App Store.

While I think that  QR Codes are A Solution Looking for a Problem to solve it is clear that some service oriented companies can build upon them to provide must have capabilities to their customers. This doesn’t make the QR Code technology must have, it is simply a catalyst others can build upon,





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