Is there any real future for QR Codes in fundraising?

Any future for QR Code Fundraising?

The news last month that Microsoft has decided to discontinue Tag, its proprietary alternative to QR Codes, has sparked a fresh debate as to whether there is really any future in them at all.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of QR (Quick Response) Codes – you’re not alone, based on the lack of success being achieved incorporating them into campaigns. In short they are the little square maze-like icons that you may see on press ads, posters, or product packaging that smartphone users who have downloded a relevant App can use to open a related webpage simply by snapping a photo of the code.

Sounds great! Just one-click from a press ad or poster to your website – what could be better for things like emergency appeal donations? That’s certainly what I had hoped when I first blogged about these neat little response icons back in 2008.

However, five years on QR Codes really haven’t caught-on with smartphone wielding consumers and are more often the focus of ridicule than the basis for great campaign results. Just last week Econsultancy commented on how hard it was to find any recent success stories to update their list of QR Code case studies.

This really is a great pity. As the idea of users being able to respond online through their phone to any physical advertisement without the need to type a URL into their mobile web browser remains a good one – especially with so many people now carrying smartphones. Unfortunately, a couple of key issues have combined to seriously restrict successful QR Code adoption to date.

Firstly, there is the issue of the user having to download a QR Code reader app and open it before they can scan a code. If only the in-built Camera Apps pre-installed on smartphones made scanning them easier then adoption would have been far faster.

Secondly, for those consumers who have bothered to equip their phones with an App the experience of using QR codes has generally been very far from satisfactory. The ease with which the codes can be created and linked to existing websites has led to them generally being thrown in to campaigns as an afterthought – often placed in stupidly unscannable places (from the top of buildings to footballers heads) or linking to non mobile-optimised websites. The end result being that many of those who did bother to adopt the technology have now generally given-up on it.

Recent research by Global Web Index apparently showed “Scanned a QR Code” as the mobile behaviour showing the greatest increase from Q2 2012, with 30% of respondents globally saying they had used them. So perhaps there is a future in them – if advertisers and fundraisers start to use them properly.

But, for now, I see no evidence of any successful fundraising application of the technology at all – while the use of good old SMS response on advertising has seen such a resurgence in the UK that it has led to restrictions on the number of charity ads being allowed on London trains.

Anyone out there seen any successful examples of QR Codes in fundraising? Do leave a comment to let me know.


5 thoughts on “Is there any real future for QR Codes in fundraising?

  1. Hi Bryan, good question. When we last redesigned fundraising pages on JG, we added a little test to see if people used QR codes. If you print a JG fundraising page, where you’d normally see a donate button, we added a QR code and displayed the JustTextGiving code for the page.
    Obviously we can’t track the text donations from there, but looking at my analytics tracking, we’ve had just over £3,000 donated via the QR code. Which, for an 18 month period is not world changing, but I was fairly happy it was greater than 0!

    1. Thanks Jon! Nice example of where such a link to the donation page (mobile optimised I’m sure;-) could be great – if only enough people were using the technology. Sadly, just £167/mth (‘tho better than nowt) seems to confirm that very few are.

      1. Yes, donation flow was of course mobile optimised 🙂 But we’ve never really publicised this to people, so it’s more of an easter egg when you print a page. Having said that, I haven’t seen any more QR code development on our product roadamp…

  2. I think the key is using QR codes to add value and convenience to the user. I actively use QR codes to add my contact information onto client’s phones. Far easier and more effective than asking them to type all that info on a phone keypad. When used correctly they are also effective for social media efforts. The key here is to take users from the QR Code reader’s browser and deliver them to the social media app they already have on their phone. There is still value in QR Codes, but it does require treating it as more than a gimmick.

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