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QR codes? role in product research is minimal: report

While consumers are embracing a number of online research tools as they consider purchases, many do not consider QR codes to be a valuable piece of the equation now or in the future, according to a new report from Radius Global Market Research.

When asked about current experiences with QR code technology, only 12 percent of the respondents to a Radius survey of U.S. households said they use the 2D bar codes across all product categories. Additionally, the number of consumers who plan to use QR codes in the future remains at 12 percent.

?The explosion of smartphone ownership has made researching purchases much easier,? said Jamie Myers, director at Radius Global Market Research, New York. ?Even so, consumer research habits remain fairly consistent as they still turn to online resources most often for big ticket and emotional purchases.

?Consumers use QR codes very infrequently, and stated future interest in this channel is low, indicating slow growth moving forward. For marketers, it seems that there is little to gain through investing heavily to develop QR codes unless there is significant industry wide effort put into educating consumers about benefits.?

Keeping pace
A wide array of marketers are incresingly have embraced QR codes in the past couple of years as a way to provide information about products to mobile users.

However, the report's findings suggest that use of QR codes is not keeping pace with the significant increase in the number of consumers who own smartphones that support QR code technology.

If marketers want to continue to engage users with their brands via QR codes, they need to close the gap between capability and perceived utility.

The results also suggest that marketers should focus on optimizing their traditional online research avenues for mobile.

The access to mobile devices is influencing how consumers research purchase decisions online, with the survey showing a significant shift toward consumers increasingly conducting online research for smaller, everyday purchases.

Consumers have been accessing online research for a while via reviews, blogs, forums and social media sites to support their purchasing decisions for big-ticket items.

More expensive purchases including televisions and apparel continue to show the highest increase in future online research, at 14 percent each. However, less expensive items such as over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, daily baby care, home care and cosmetic products all showed comparable growth potential, at around 10 percent and 11 percent.

Researching products online
The results underscore the need for all marketers to manage online research channels, not just those offering items with larger price tags. However, the need to include QR codes in their strategies is questionable.

By category, just 3 percent of respondents had used QR codes to research travel products, 12 percent electronics, 7 percent automobiles, 6 percent baby care equipment, 9 percent household appliances, 4 percent toys and games, 5 percent financial products, 2 percent apparel, 3 percent daily baby care, 3 percent makeup/personal care, 2 percent home care products, 1 percent OTC medications, 2 percent beverages and 1 percent packaged foods.

Respondents stated future use was also low, with 15 percent saying they will use QR codes to get information about baby care equipment in the future, 9 percent for household appliances, 8 percent toys and games, 4 percent OTC pharmaceuticals, 3 percent packaged goods, 4 percent beverages, 5 percent daily baby care, 4 percent apparel, 7 percent financial products, 3 percent home care products, 4 percent makeup/personal care and 4 percent travel.

The intended future use for electronics, 11 percent, is lower than the current use. The same is true for automobiles, with 5 percent planning to use QR codes in the future.

?It is critical for marketers to maintain an integrated presence across online and social media channels including mobile,? Mr. Myers said. ?Collectively, information gathered and conversations held across these channels influence the purchase decision process in broadening range of categories.

?Consumers are still most likely to rely on traditional online sources for research information,? he said. ?And with smartphone penetration continuing to grow, the goal for marketers should be to deliver a better experience via mobile via those traditional online sources - company Web sites, search engines, blogs, etc.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York