Daily Dose of iQ: Does Mobile Visual Search (MVS) Signal the Demise of QR Codes?

Feb 16, 2012 — Katherine Simaluk

QR codes have been in the news for some time and in spite of success stories (like Tesco's Home plus grocery service in South Korea), a study by comScore indicated only 14 million mobile device users in the U.S. scanned a QR code in June 2011.

"In essence, less than 5% of the American public has scnned a QR code. So where's the disconnect?" asks Jon Barocas in an article on Mashable.com (Feb. 15).

Barocas says inadequate technology, lack of education, and a perceived dearth of value but have been major barriers to QR code adoption, but the biggest reason? They are not visually stimulating enough.

He's got a point there.

  • QR codes are uninspiring and uncreative. The majority of them look the same, and users typically don’t know exactly what they're getting into upon scanning them. As Barocas mentioned, humans are naturally attracted to stimuli, and QR codes are generally devoid of stimuli. (Exceptions do exist, however.)
  • QR codes are complicated to use. QR codes are not THAT convenient. The adoption journey is too long: Download a scanner; scan the QR code; allow the app to redirect you to the given website; see what happens... And the next time you see a QR code to scan, you have to dig through your apps to find the QR code scanner you downloaded. This is not the most ideal user experience.

And so, Barocas offers a solution: Mobile Visual Search (MVS)

MVS, as demonstrated in the very compelling Google Goggles video above, appears to offer a more appealing user experience.

"With MVS, you simply point at a product or logo and shoot a picture with your smartphone’s built-in camera," Barocas explains. "Within seconds, the MVS application will provide product or company information, or even the option to make a purchase right then and there on your mobile device."

Trendwatching.com calls MVS (or visual search) the future of "point-know-buy": Point-know-buy is the mobile continuum linking consumers from discovery to purchase.

MVS addresses the pain points of QR codes. Users already know what want to search. They see it; they're engaged and they want more information about it. Click and go.

As shown in the above video, Google Goggles allow a user to connect visual stimuli with Google's vast amount of searchable information. It's simply a faster, more convenient process than using a QR code.

Wireless retailers should understand MVS, from both a device perspective and a consumer perspective.

If MVS technology is really the way of the future, wireless retail staff should familiarize themselves with how it works so that they can demo it for customers and/or identify devices that are MVS-capable. At some point, customers are going to want to know which phones have it and which phones don't.

Also, customers will want to know what the advantage is to using MVS technology. An easy way of explaining it is: Instead of having to type the brand name or describe what you're seeing (often you won't even know what it's called!) into the Google search field on your phone, all you have to do is take a photo of it in the MVS app (be it Google Googles, Layar Vision, or another app) and click through on the photo to read more.

And unlike with QR codes, you (the consumer) are dictating what you click through to -- not what the company (the advertiser) intends for you to see.

Topics: Retail Operations, Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, e-Commerce

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