3 QR Codes People Actually Scan

Photograph by Patrick Pleul/DPA/Landov

Advertisers have not had much success in getting people to scan Quick Response codes.

Those black-and-white boxes found in many advertisements may look like an alien language, and to many people, they might as well be.

Advertisers have not had much success in getting people to scan Quick Response codes. For those who do recognize what they’re for and have the requisite smartphone and special app, the payoff is often not worth the effort of scanning.

For Bloomberg Businessweek, I took a look at the state of QR codes in advertising and other industries. The results aren’t pretty. I did manage to track down a few examples where the companies involved were actually happy with the outcome. They weren’t easy to find.

All Aboard the QR Train

Amtrak currently lets riders download electronic tickets, outfitted with QR codes, to their smartphones in a few cities. Spokeswoman Vernae Graham said the company plans to expand the e-ticketing system nationally by the end of the summer. Amtrak will integrate with Apple’s Passbook app, which keeps digital tickets, loyalty cards and coupons.

“Passengers will be able to board a train just by presenting their iPhone, and with location and time features, when a passenger arrives at a station, their eTicket will be displayed automatically,” the company said in a statement.

Color Me Impressed

Target spokesman Eddie Baeb said one of the retailer’s most successful experiments with QR codes involved helping home decorators identify matching colors. Target placed codes on children’s bedding items that, when scanned, tell the user which Benjamin Moore paint to buy. Target will also implement Passbook for finding coupons when a shopper arrives at a store.

Getting to Know Your Rental

Enterprise Rent-A-Car has placed QR codes on key chains and on car windows. The codes are targeted at renters who want to learn more about their vehicle from the automaker’s website. The hope, of course, is that you’ll end up buying that model. The program “has exceeded expectations so far,” Enterprise spokeswoman Lisa Martini said. Currently, some 20,000 cars have been outfitted with tags, and in a few months, Enterprise plans to have nearly a million.

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