Microsoft’s move to abandon its Tag service has mobile marketers and pundits once again questioning whether the window of opportunity for all 2D barcodes — the vast majority of which are QR codes — has closed. MediaPost asks whether QR codes are already history, Mashable infers that Microsoft’s announcement means QR codes continue to struggle, and PCWorld wonders where QR codes go from here.
But while QR codes clearly haven’t taken off the way marketers had hoped, it’s dangerous to read too much into Microsoft’s news. Unlike true QR codes, Tag is a proprietary technology that until recently required users to download Microsoft’s app to read the code, which added another hoop for user to jump through. And as my colleague Kevin Tofel wrote yesterday, Tag codes simply aren’t as recognizable and familiar as the QR codes that consumers have seen for several years.
And as eMarketer wrote earlier this year, the audience of QR code users isn’t insignificant: Twenty-seven percent of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France reported scanning barcodes, according to data from Pitney Bowes, and usage in the U.S. is particularly high. QR codes can still be an effective way of reaching young smartphone owners, but only when they reward those users for making the effort to scan them.