REI, a QR Code and UX

There are a lot of statistics out there about the prevalence of smartphones. Take, for instance, the fact that 9 out of 10 consumers in the market for a new mobile phone over the next twelve months plan to buy one (eMarketer, “Boomers and Media Usage,” 3/10). Or the fact that smartphones will account for 1/3 of handset sales globally in less than four years (Joel Book, Exact Target, 2010 citing Pyramid Research). It goes without saying that these stats will all impact how we access the Internet in coming years: via mobile devices.

As much as you change the door to the house, though, people will not change how they walk up to the house: marketers who want their target audiences to visit them online need to make it easy for them to knock on the door. I’d argue they even need to let themselves in.

Which is why I’m intrigued by the growth of QR Codes. My time working on campaigns with CueCat ten years ago makes me understandingly skeptical. But the key notion of a code–that consumers can simply point their phones at this barcode and let the web do the rest–is powerful.

QR Code for REIA new catalog showed up from REI last week and the back cover was graced by a QR Code. I’m sure there’s a designer somewhere who was willing to commit Seppuku for how ugly these codes render layouts.

But a good strategist should be able to win the “ugly argument” by citing improved user experience and promising visitor traffic and, presumably down the line, online sales. This is all simply because I–as a potential shopper–only had to point my phone at the back of the catalog to be magically whisked away to my local store and, wouldn’t you know it, the winter jacket shell that fits perfectly with the down vest I just bought from REI two weeks ago.

The aforementioned strategist, before making such promises, also needs to reach out to a production team to ensure that the promises made can actually be delivered. In the case of this REI catalog, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that happened. For all its promise, I still had to “work” to get to the “right” screen for that jacket shell. Guess what I didn’t buy today.



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