2D bar codes are one of the latest “shiny objects” in mobile marketing. And it’s no surprise — with mobile marketing spend increasing and smartphone adoption on the rise, you want to know if it’s time to invest in this mobile marketing tactic. The result?  More and more clients have come to me and said, "I'm working on my QR Code strategy, and . . ."

But in order to answer the questions that come after that statement, I wanted to explore and explain the actual benefits of this tactic (potentially huge), and the actual adoption today (still pretty low).  Here are some of the high-level findings from my research to help you de-code bar codes:

·         2D bar codes have a lot of marketing potential. They can be placed anywhere — allowing you to reach your audience at all stages of the consumer life cycle with targeted information. And they do it efficiently: they connect people with additional content immediately through a scan, require little consumer effort, and can leverage  context to provide more targeted and useful information in the moment.

·         But, consumers aren’t scanning away today. While marketers and companies are starting to dive-in, most consumers aren’t — yet. Adoption increased from 1% last year to 5% this year, and among smartphone owners, penetration is at about 15%. Why isn’t it higher? Because of basic unfamiliarity of what these codes even do, the required step of downloading a 2D bar code reader, and most importantly for marketers to note: disappointing experiences and content.

·         But they will be in the future.These hurdles are common among new tactics and technologies. Familiarity will increase as these codes continue to pop-up in print ads, on buses, on billboards and product packages — and marketers can help with this by offering instructions and explaining the value users will get from scanning it.

The good news is that marketers can start piloting these codes at a low cost today to learn the technology, the best content to offer, and to make sure they can offer people user-friendly, valuable experiences. But if you're going to try it, you have to set reasonable expectations to internal stakeholders, clarify internally that this is a test-and-refine-opportunity, and make sure that you're accomplishing an objective and offering real value to the consumer.

For much more detail about each of these points, including the demographics of 2D bar code users, 2D bar code use examples, and factors to take into account while piloting, Forrester clients can check out the full report  “US Marketers: Stay Ahead Of 2D Bar Code Adoption.”

For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals, also see Julie Ask’s report: "2D Bar Codes: Driving Consumers To Purchase."