Yes, we understand that QR codes are often the butt of jokes and that we have presented Physical Web beacons as QR replacements.
But when you move QR codes onto a Physical Web platform and make them browsable alongside beacons, something magical happens: QR codes become private, secure and blazingly fast, with instant previews of the content they link to. Browsability transforms the QR user experience (UX) from being clumsy and mysterious to one that is seamless and convenient.
QR’s bad rap
The past problem with QR code adoption was not that they were ugly. The problem was that users had to scan them to discover their content, which took several seconds, only to find the content had no value most of the time. Nobody wanted to use a tool with such little value.
And yet, QR has persisted in spite of this terrible UX because it makes use of the one smartphone interface that can be pointed directly at a specific item — the camera. With their cameras and QR codes, users can instantly communicate the subject of their attention. This is valuable to marketers who immediately know customer intent, whereas most interfaces do not allow such precision.
For comparison, consider a scenario using a digital voice assistant. Two people are standing in front of a Monet “Water Lilies” painting. The first browses the QR and is immediately focused on absorbing content about that painting — need satisfied. The second says “Siri, can you tell me about the Monet ‘Water Lilies’ painting?” whereupon Siri responds: “Here’s what I found on the web for Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ painting” (along with a list of websites from the nearly 250 Water Lilies paintings he completed) — frustration ensues. Plainly, the camera is a better tool to precisely indicate a target subject.
The fix that’s rejuvenating QR: Touchpoint browsing
The solution to QR’s UX issues was always right in front of us. The web is based on URLs and people like web browsing. It affords a layer of privacy and security from destinations, and it lets users preview first, then decide which websites to visit. QR codes are also URL-based, so why send people blindly to these destinations? Why not offer them a popular interface or even an improved version?
When managing QR interactions through a Physical Web platform, marketers are providing an exceptional user experience called “touchpoint browsing,” which:
- Accelerates the experience
- Displays the website content before opening the page
- Protects customer privacy
- Increases security
- Smooths the experience with seamless movement from one QR preview to the next.
A smart platform also yields big advantages for marketers, including the ability to conditionally change content. For example, a retailer with in-app touchpoint browsing can show different content to loyal app users than to Snapchat users accessing the same QR code within the Snapchat app (yes, Snapchat previews QR codes).
Another benefit is the remote management of previews, which marketers can manage independent of an associated destination link. Furthermore, different than traditional QR platforms that track only clicks, a smart platform captures both impressions and clickthroughs. This helps measure the value of the shared content with closed loop feedback.
Plays well with others
QR codes and Physical Web beacons are not interchangeable, but they play well together. They have different attributes, strengths, and weaknesses — batteries vs. paper; wireless vs. visual; nearby subjects vs. specific subjects. But an interesting twist of moving QR codes onto a Physical Web platform is that it significantly benefits the overall utility of the Physical Web.
There is value in enabling the Physical Web to use the best touchpoint for the offered experience and in offering all user options in a single application. For instance, it’s convenient for a museum visitor to use a single application to wirelessly review event schedules (via a beacon), and then visually access information about a specific exhibit (via a QR code).
By embracing QR alongside the other customer-directed touchpoints, beacons and NFC, the Physical Web:
- Allows marketers to deploy the type or mixture of digital touchpoints most appropriate to the subject or environment.
- Enables the camera as a user tool to point to a specific item of interest.
- Makes the Physical Web work well in areas with dense subject content.
- Becomes significantly more efficient and flexible for users.
The bottom line
All in all, combining QR codes and the Physical Web will revolutionize the use and value of QR codes, while also enhancing the utility of the Physical Web.
Get ready for QR codes – Act II.