QR codes are not for everyone.

The day is coming when people will be able to look at something and instantly access information about it. Augmented reality, it’s called. Companies like Google are actively working on items that will make this a reality. In the meantime, there are mobile apps like Word Lens, Robotvision, StarChart and Cyclopedia that come close to providing this sort of experience. And then there are QR codes.

If you don’t know, QR codes are images that, when scanned, lead to documents or web sites. They look sort of like barcodes, and all you do is scan them using an app on your smart phone to access digital content. Mostly, QR codes are used as a marketing tool. They’re placed on business cards, product packaging, restaurant menus, and event ticket stubs. They can link to free downloads, customer feedback forms, coupons and special offers, and directions to a specific location.

While the appeal of QR codes is pretty obvious—people can find out more about you or your business just by tapping through a screen or two—I’m predicting that they’ll fall by the wayside soon enough mostly because people don’t know how to use them. Consumers don’t know what they are, and marketers don’t know when or how to use them well.

Besides, it won’t be too much longer before AR devices render QR codes obsolete. Pulling out your phone, opening an app, and scanning a code will one day be too many steps; all you’ll have to do is look at the item. In the meantime, use QR codes only if you really feel they’ll meet your needs, and use them appropriately.

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