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.

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Does QR = Quick Response or Quite Ridiculous?

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I first posted about the potential for QR Codes to be used by fundraisers back in early 2008 and, while it’s been some time coming, it’s been interesting to see how their use has started to take-off over the last year or so.

However, as explained by Scott Stratten in the fun video clip above, right now QR Codes seem to be coming-out like a rash in a range of places where they make very little if any sense.

I’ve now got used to seeing QR Codes at the end of some emails, linking back to the sender’s website. Clearly offering no advantage at all over a standard clickable link and presumably stuck there in the vain hope that I’ll scan their email on my computer screen with my Smartphone, or scan my Smartphone with a notional ‘other’ Smartphone when I’m reading my email while on the go. That just makes me smile at how daft some people can be.

However, what prompted me to mention this whole subject here is that a week or so ago I saw QR Codes under each of the prompt values on the proposed screen designs for the donation pages of a new charity website. When the client questioned this with their agency, the designer apparently wasn’t sure where these might link to but thought it might be good to offer the option. Good to offer a diversion away from perhaps the most important point in the transaction journey to an unspecified location viewed on another device by scanning the computer screen? No wonder almost half of all potential donors give-up without completing transactions if that’s the sort of thinking going into donation page design these days.

For more such examples of where QR actually stands for ‘Quite Ridiculous’ take a look at this list from eConsultancy (Top ridiculous points go to Bromley Town Football Club for shaving unreadable QR codes onto players’ heads).

The moral of the story – while everyone knows that mobile is becoming increasingly important in our new digital world, there is still a very important place for good old-fashioned common sense when it comes to how you should try to capitalise on the new opportunities on offer.

Also, never be afraid to ask your agency why they are recommending something that seems wrong to you. You never know, it might well be that what they are recommending is simply wrong – and by asking the question you can save yourselves both some embarrassment.

The fast growing potential for Smartphone Fundraising

Last week, Ericsson analysts announced that, according to their estimates, the world’s 5 billionth mobile phone subscription was reached on Thursday July 8th, and they illustrated the pace of growth with the fact that there are now more mobile subscribers in China alone than there were globally in 2000.

While such a milestone is a clear reminder of the growing ubiquity of mobile phones, it’s actually the parallel growth in mobile broadband subscriptions that Ericsson also report in the same news release that I think is all the more exciting from the fundraising point of view. They forecast 3.4 billion mobile broadband subscribers by 2015, up from 360 million in 2009 – which is in-line with other market estimates and represents the level of growth that has led analysts at Gartner Research to announce earlier this year that mobile phones will actually overtake PCs as the most common web access device world-wide by 2013.

This might seem like a crazy forecast, given the relatively low levels of mobile web use we see today. But with multiple studies showing month on month exponential growth in mobile web user numbers and eMarketer analysts predicting that there will be more mobile internet users in China by the end of this year than the entire population of the US it’s already looking like the technology adoption curve to beat them all.

All of which is why, when I was asked to present the Hot Topic: Digital Fundraising session at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention here in London last week it was Smartphones and the incredible range of new fundraising opportunities their mass adoption looks set to offer us that I took as my hot topic subject.

You can see my full presentation above or view it on Slideshare here – and if you’d like to read more about some of the emerging new fundraising opportunities then you can also take a look at my article in the April edition of the Resource Alliance’s ‘Global Connections’ e-newsletter.

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