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Brad Breininger & Marko Zonta

Zync - Journal | Are QR codes making a comeback?

Discussing about QR codes and their relevance in 2021.

Are QR codes making a comeback?

With vaccine passports on the horizon, the government is talking about issuing QR codes to facilitate a “quick response” to get into places like restaurants and other public establishments. 

To some, this represents a resurgence for the trusty QR code – but is this comeback really a comeback? Or has this technology been used in multiple ways over the years? Is North America just behind the rest of the world?  Are there any security concerns involved? What’s changed since the QR technology was created? Also, are there other opportunities to using these codes?

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Recorded on October 1, 2021.


Brad Breininger: 0:00
Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s everything is brand. This week we’re asking the question, are QR codes making a comeback? Let’s talk. So with the vaccine passports, the government is talking about issuing QR codes. Now, if you all remember a few years ago, people tried to push QR codes, particularly in North America, I think they’ve always been popular in Asia and other parts of the world, but but they didn’t really stick last time. But because of the vaccine passports are we going to see more QR codes? I mean, they’re even showing up on menus, on tables. And we’re seeing a lot more. What do you guys think?

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 0:46
I think they are, to be honest, one could think that they aren’t being used anymore. But I have some stats in front of me. The QR code usage in 2021 – They’ve had an 96% growth, even 2018 to 2020. So people are using them. I guess the main concern that people have, is it, there was this rumour saying that they couldn’t be trusted. But if you think about how QR codes are made, QR codes themselves cannot be hacked. The issue is where you’re being directed, right? So I guess as long as you’re scanning a QR code from some kind of trusted sender accessing, let’s say, the government or something like that, there shouldn’t be any issues. Right.

Brad Breininger: 1:41
I think the other big issue, I think last time was that you had to download an app in order to read the QR codes. And now you just have to open your camera point it, you know, there you go. Let’s face it, people don’t want to have to download an app in order to read their QR code. It just was a lot of work. But I mean, opening your camera and just going up close to the code, it’s a lot easier. So I think the previous laziness factor was driving non usage. But it seems like that’s all been worked out.

Marko Zonta: 2:12
And I think also just in general, like people’s comfort level with mobile devices, I think makes a big difference as well. a much bigger range of people is comfortable using their phone using their camera now and the fact that you only need your camera to scan that code. Now, I think that plays into it as well, in terms of usage.

Gabi Gomes: 2:30
At the end of the day, QR code is basically a link to pieces of information, whether they’re pre populated, or a shortcut to somewhere that you need to go to on the website. You know, instead of people typing in URLs and whatnot, it’s just scan it with your phone, etc. I think the resurgence is as a result of the pandemic largely and you know, the fact that it’s touchless. Now we’re seeing like you said, Brad, menus coming across as QR code. So now you’re reviewing the menu on your smartphone, as opposed to touching an actual menu at a restaurant, they have been used with governments on other pieces, like passports are ones that the government has used. So it was already introduced there as well. But I think pushing it forward now and having more adoption of it has really kind of made people aware and able to use it. I think the whole pandemic has really driven people to their smartphones, frankly, and accessing tools safer and quicker. And just being in general, more open to technology adoption.

Brad Breininger: 3:37
Yeah, I mean, the menu thing, I think, is a big one, the idea of touching, like a gross disgusting menu now, like I don’t, I’ll never go back to that. I love that whole QR code on the table thing. And, you know, it takes a little getting used to, but now it’s nothing. But it’s interesting, because I mean, I just went to a restaurant recently. And there’s kind of different stages. So when you first get to the host table, you have the QR code to fill in your, I guess your tracking information or whatever. And so that QR code gives you that one, then you get to the table and there’s a QR code for the drink menu. There’s a QR code for the food menu, it opens PDFs, you can either use the immediate link or you can go into the deeper PDF. The idea of touching one of those grody menus especially in some of those restaurants, where the menu was like multiple pages and you know, all of a sudden it was just sticky on one of the pages and you’re like, oh god, what is this? I think that this whole driven by the pandemic thing actually turned into something that could be really useful going forward,

Gabi Gomes: 4:42
not to mention the opportunities that come with it. So web traffic being one of them from you scanning it and reviewing it and you know, the opportunities that it opens up to possible other marketing of you know, you’re browsing the menu, but hey, what if you had some other coupon come up or some other anything else collection of data, your information for an email list, whatever it is, right?

Brad Breininger: 5:08
Yeah, that’s gonna happen for sure.

Gabi Gomes: 5:11
other opportunities,

Marko Zonta: 5:12
yeah, opportunities for sure. But there are also some challenges in the sense that if brands are using QR codes for whatever purpose, whether it’s, you know, to direct them to a menu or forum, or whatever it is, they also have to recognize that people are using their mobile device, so design the menu to be easily read on your iPhone, or fill out the form or whatever it is like to actually have that kind of traditional menu format. And now you’re looking at it on this tiny screen just doesn’t make any sense, right? And I’ve had that experience where it’s like, Okay, well, that’s great that you’re giving me the QR code. But now I’m constantly zooming in and zooming out, because you basically gave me this whole page that you just dropped in. Right? So I think that that’s that’s just a bad experience.

Brad Breininger: 5:57
Is that them are your eyes? I mean, you really have to ask that question.

Marko Zonta: 6:03
In this case, you know, even with my glasses, I still, you know,

Gabi Gomes: 6:07
I think in fairness to the restaurant business and whatnot, I think that that was kind of like, Oh, my gosh, you know, this is a safer way, got to implement it, take the PDF that already exists for the menu, slap it up there, get a QR code, away we go. I mean, I don’t know that, you know, anybody’s made that decision that we’ll never go back to menus or whatnot, right? So I think you will see that change and evolve. As those decisions are, are implemented, what you’re seeing is basically an organization having to be nimble, and having to take public safety into account, you know, quickly and seeing that, but for sure, I think those things need to be improved. The one that I remember the most is vaccine rollout. And having, you know, big ass signs with a QR code, like check in over here, you’re here and then fill out, you know, your symptoms, or whatever it was, the flow of people and how QR codes helped to facilitate vaccine rollout was – it had a part to play in there as well. So, you know, pretty much in Asia QR codes are used quite widely. Over here, we never really saw that wide adoption, you know, perhaps, possibly, we’re always a little bit later to adopt things over here on this side of the world. But I think with the pandemic, the western side has really kind of propelled the QR codes. And I think at this point, we’re so used to them, I would think they’re not foreign, you know, abstract black and white things that you see, but I think they’re here to stay. It’s just how do we use them more? Well, what other opportunities are there, we’ve got payments being made on other sides of the world in terms of QR codes and whatnot, shopping is done through QR code. So it’ll be really interesting to see how we in North America adopt it further,

Jeremy Linskill: 7:55
to go way back to the restaurant, which I think you talked about about five minutes ago, after your long ass speech there. I don’t know if you guys heard but like, I don’t know if it was last week or two weeks ago, but a company called Toast went public on the stock exchange or something, and it was a huge thing. And they’ve basically embraced the issue with restaurants. And so now they through QR codes, you can look at a menu that’s built on a mobile device, you can sign up with your party, you can pay everything without contact, basically contactless. And so it’s been a really big deal. And a lot of people a lot of big companies are getting behind it. So I think you’re going to see exactly what you’re talking about in terms of the restaurant, it’s being dealt with right now. And I think you’re gonna see it implemented across a lot of things like right now, you know, when I go to restaurants to your point, I scan QR codes I get there, I get the company’s website, where I’m dealing with whatever version of their menu that they have, on their website, this is taking it to the next level of using an app to do all that. And it’s all access through a QR code. So pretty interesting to see what’s happening.

Brad Breininger: 9:01
Yeah, and that’ll that’ll roll out I mean, restaurants are probably the main place. But I think that that will probably roll out across all retail, even to the point I mean, if even if you think of, you know, supply chain and inventory, one of the things that I’ve heard is that you’ll in the future be able to go into a retail store and they won’t keep any stock. And so from a supply chain perspective, they won’t keep any stock in the store. And you know what, they’ll just have a sample with a QR code, they’ll hit the QR code, you’ll actually order it online even though you’re in the store, and you can touch it and feel it but then the QR code connection does all of the work. So you’re actually ordering online, even though you’re live in the store. So I think that there will be not only integration of the QR codes, but also changes in how we purchase and how we buy and how we interact in retail experiences based on what we’ve seen. That’s like you said Gabi, been driven by the pandemic, but now, organizations like Toast, and I’m sure that there’s others out there as well, that are innovating what’s even going to happen next.

Marko Zonta: 10:09
Well if you go back in terms of like, let’s say grocery shopping, right? Like before, they added those codes to every single product, the person in store would type in the price for every single item, right? So it – that completely changed how that type of shopping is done. Right. So QR codes will change everything else. But of course, it will take some time for companies to kind of go through that change. But I think that QR codes are, you know, to Jeremy’s point, they’re very much connected to the user experience, you really have to think about, okay, what is the purpose of that QR code? And then what what are we asking the user to do? If we’re reading information out on a small device, or, you know, filling out a form or whatever that may be. That has to be specifically designed for that type of experience.

Brad Breininger: 11:00
Yeah. And I think that that will evolve definitely, over time, I think one of Gabi’s points earlier, it was kind of a stopgap measure to kind of throw some QR codes on a table and just kind of solve the problem of spreading germs over physical menus. It’s interesting, because I remember in the early days of the pandemic, some people were just printing out single use menus on pieces of paper, so you would get those, but I don’t even see those anymore, I really see more QR codes than anything. And I feel like those paper menus were kind of the first stage then we kind of moved to the QR codes. And I think that there will be more and more evolution, depending on you know, what’s required in organizations like Toast and others who come in bring different UI experiences, different ways of doing things, so that it’s much more user focused, than stopgap emergency focused,

Marko Zonta: 11:53
but it’s interesting, like even for, let’s say, businesses, whether it’s you know, larger business or even smaller businesses that are doing any kind of advertising or, you know, trying to direct people to more information, QR codes are a great way to direct the person that you’re trying to talk to, to a very specific landing page, providing only the information you believe they need at that moment. So I think that it’s great, you know, in the kind of the advertising world, because you can really kind of control that entire experience. Obviously, nobody wants to type in a long URL on their phone or anything like that. So I think that this is where it’s an opportunity for brands to really kind of make the entire experience better and easier.

Jeremy Linskill: 12:39
I think part of it, too, is there was so much hesitation around for the longest time. And I think it really forced the hand of like, everybody doesn’t have a smartphone, we have to think about the lowest common denominator. And with the pandemic, it’s kind of forced us to be like, we can’t do that anymore, we have to now move forward, we have to assume everyone has a smartphone, we have to assume that they have access to the internet, that they have data that they you know, all that kind of stuff. I mean, I’m sure there’s still menus in a pile in the back corner of a restaurant and things like that for the people that don’t but more so the fact I think that, you know, we have to deal with the lowest common denominator. And we’re not necessarily doing that the same way anymore.

Brad Breininger: 13:17
nor should we really, I mean, when you think of, like, does technology or does anything really evolve by trying to keep one foot in the past and one foot in the future? I think that there needs to be a transition for sure. But I mean, the idea at this point that people don’t have a device or smartphone in their pocket. I just think we need to let that go.

Jeremy Linskill: 13:42
But to that point, I think like if we it’s a change in philosophy, and I think that if we make that change that I you know, as fast as things are changing, or have been changing in the past, they’re going to start to change even faster now, right? It’s going to progress even faster, because we’re kind of getting rid of that thought process and being like, you know what people are going to have to catch up, we’re not going to wait for them, we’re just going to move forward. And I think that that’s what we’ve seen over the last two years of the pandemic, through working at home and video chatting, and now, you know, going to restaurants and assuming people have devices all the time. So I think progress is going to speed up even more.

Gabi Gomes: 14:16
You know, like the retail sector has had the QR code for a while but I think it took something like our health and the government using it to really get adoption going. Right? Once those government ends up using it, then it forces more people to also adopt it and go along for the ride. You know, I think one of the highest growth for the QR code has been in the healthcare industry, right? And probably because of the pandemic but the ability to if we think about it in a healthcare situation, patients, you know, and having a QR code with their information, drug, whatever, you know, no longer does a nurse – I mean Every nur e or health practitioner has a h s a smartphone with them. But t e ability to if we’re thinki g about medical charts a d whatnot, you know, like o d forms, the ability to scan, g t quick information on a patie t to be able to help them howev r it is. That’s, in essence, wh t the QR code is, right? Qui k information snippet shortcu , etc. And I think it’s, it s going to be the game changer n terms of the speed, you’ e right, share, things evol e really quickly with technolog . But, you know, I think it’ll e to our benefit in the en

Jeremy Linskill: 15:37
Yeah, if they just weren’t so damn ugly. Like, that’s, I think, honestly, that’s part of the problem. They just –

Gabi Gomes: 15:43
Are we even going to say how we got to this podcast? Are we gonna even mention how we got to this podcast topic? And it was you saying that the QR code was dead? That’s because its ugly. It’s ugly. I said, No, I think you’re wrong. Fast forward a few years. And here we are on a podcast talking about how it never went away.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 16:04
It’s gotten better. Right? You can add colors, you can add different shapes. At least.

Brad Breininger: 16:12
It’s interesting, because if you look at the QR codes in Asia, like they put Hello Kitty space in the middle of the QR code. I mean, there’s there’s creative things that you can do. And and here’s the bottom line, sometimes ugly things have a place in this world, Jeremy. And it’s not all about how great things look. It’s how useful they are.

Gabi Gomes: 16:31
In this case, a QR code is a utilitarian thing, right? It’s a utility.

Brad Breininger: 16:36
Yeah. And, you know, I think it really comes down to incorporating this instant access. And there’s a lot of information out there. To your point earlier, Marko, this idea that the QR code provides instant access to exactly what you’re looking for. I think that that trumps a lot of the negative sides of it, right? It, it allows you to kind of go immediately. And I think this idea Gabi that healthcare can benefit from it. I mean, when you think about all the trouble that they’ve had in the past with patient information, and having the wrong bracelets on people, and, you know, if you had a QR code on the bracelet, and immediately comes up the patient information with a picture even, and you can look at the person’s Oh, wait, this is, you know, like, there’s a lot of advantages to what is being done. And I think that, you know, we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg here. I think that QR codes are simply the first stage in an evolution of digitizing pretty much everything. And we may look back 10 years from now and say, Oh, my God, that QR code looks so primitive, maybe there’s going to be something else that kind of takes its place. But right now, in our society, QR codes are a really great way of getting to the information you need quickly on your smart device without having to touch anything else, when it comes to menus. It can really help evaluate things like in a healthcare situation, it can maybe solve some of the supply chain issues that we have. I think that all the different industries will look at how this technology will basically change how they operate the way it’s kind of happened in the – in the retail and restaurant industry. And it’s going to be less about whether or not it looks good or works well, because I think the QR code is just a stopgap to whatever’s going to come next. And it’s kind of the gateway to a whole new way of doing things digitally. You just need to make them prettier. Yeah. So do we agree, QR codes are making a comeback? What’s our – What’s our bottom line?

Marko Zonta: 18:50
Absolutely. And they’re here to stay.

Gabi Gomes: 18:53
They never left.

Brad Breininger: 18:54
That’s right. So that’s so you heard it – You heard it from the professionals guys, QR codes are not only making a comeback, but they’re here to stay. That’s this week’s edition of Everything is Brand. Join us next week for a new topic and a new discussion. And until then remember, everything is brand

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