How Snapchat Orchestrated The Return of the QR Code

 -How Snapchat orchestrated the return of the QR Code

AdAge published the death of QR codes at the hands of “easier-to-use apps” back in 2013. But thanks to messaging apps like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, they are getting a new lease of life.


“Snapcodes” were created by Snapchat in 2015, to enable users to create their own image and add friends, simply by scanning them. Everyone from tech editors to political candidates created them, many choosing to change their profile pictures across other social media platforms to maximize their use.

Snapchat did not stop there. Now, you can scan “Snapcodes” to unlock new filters or open a discover channel on Snapchat. They have also recently enabled businesses to create a “Snapcode” that links to their website. Simply scan the code in Snapchat to open the mobile version of the website while remaining in the app.

“QR codes were heavily hyped and never realized their promise due to such tangible things including a lack of bar code scanning standardization, disinterest by many creatives in employing such an unimaginative image, a lack of agreed-upon business rules and frankly the availability of many other ways to engage a mobile user,” Jeff Hasen, mobile strategist at Possible Mobile, told Mobile Marketer. “It took Pinterest, Facebook, and Snapchat to revive the effort and it’s progressing in ways that many could not have predicted due to inclusion in its products and promotion at scale.”

So, how has this impacted the QR Code?

Back in the day when QR codes first came out, the technology was clunky and people had to download special apps to be able to scan them. There was little to no payoff.

Snapchat has simplified the entire process, building the QR reader into its app.

Now, Pepsi, Jeep, Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook Messenger, and Spotify are among the list of brands looking at QR codes to improve experiences for consumers everywhere.

What does the return of QR codes mean for Marketers?

The triumphant return of QR codes indicates how mobile marketing has matured about the past few years.

Gone are the days when you need multiple apps to unlock products or services. Now, smart applications like Snapchat are integrating software into their existing platforms to improve the consumer experience. For QR codes, Snapchat put it back on the map by putting the technology into the hands of approximately 161 million smartphone users.

Another great example of integrating technology into a smartphone app is that of Pokemon Go. The runaway success of this game last summer shows how users are interested in integrating with new engaging technology, in one place. Instead of having to use a VR headset, Pokemon Go enabled users to experience this new technology within the game app itself.

For marketers, certain things have not changed since the initial emergence of QR codes. They are eager to find solutions to two key digital marketing challenge. Firstly, getting adequate metrics on success or failure of initiatives, and secondly, bridging their online and offline efforts to create a seamless consumer experience.

Metrics still matter

Marketers are still eager to measure the impact of their digital initiatives. In fact, in January P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said that the CPG giant would stop partnering with companies that couldn’t provide clearer measurements. Voicing the opinion of many marketers, who were getting increasingly fed-up with the lack of transparency when it comes to digital channels.

QR codes offer an opportunity for digital platforms to provide better metrics. The technology allows you to lead to any website, so by simply by adding tracking to the URL, you can measure the impact of traffic on your website. Facebook is also experimenting with QR codes. According to a report by TechCrunch, the social behemoth is reportedly testing a rewards feature that leverages personalized QR codes. These codes can be scanned when users purchase in-store, linking to an ad with another transaction opportunity.

Bridging the online and offline worlds

Marketers continue to look for ways to bridge the gap between their online and offline worlds. Pokemon Go proved that the user is looking for new technology to maximize their experience, and may be open to scanning a QR code for a payoff.

“QR codes as a technology serve as a bridge, connecting the offline world and our mobile lives,” Jon Burg, head of product marketing at AppsFlyer, told Mobile Marketer. “The larger trend this speaks to, the interest of marketers and users to better connect their digital world with the physical world, will only grow stronger in the months and years to come. As for whether we will see increased usage of QR Codes as the conduit of this offline-to-mobile connection, the proof will be in the data. If marketers and users find measurable value in this technology, they will continue to increase their usage of it.”

Mixed reactions to the re-emergence of QR Codes

Although QR codes have a lot to offer. Not everyone has welcomed the return.

Many are still concerned that QR codes remain clunky, and unless are created for use in Snapchat or Facebook, will offer little to no impact for brands.

QR codes created outside of these social environments are likely to fall victim to the frustration from users who do not want to download a special QR reader.

Whether or not QR codes are going to become a staple of every marketer’s digital arsenal remains unclear. What is clear is the impact of platforms like Snapchat and Facebook.

Marketers are having to think how to creatively use these platforms.


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2017 is set to take us one step closer to a “Digital Industrial Revolution”. With consumer behavior changing once again, due to the rise of individualism and the desire for greater privacy, CEOs, CMOs, and CDOs around the world are anticipating the need for more personalized, targeted marketing in a world where our consumption of adverts and commercials is decreasing. Finding new ways to engage on a 1-2-1 level with consumers is becoming increasingly important. The rise of ChatBots and messenger apps like Snapchat is evidence of this.

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