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In case you haven’t heard of QR codes (also known as quick response codes) or NFC (near field communications), both are used widely in marketing, and were developed in the 1990’s.  QR codes are the black and white barcodes you’ll see on everything from magazine advertisements to promotional packaging, and are scanned by your smartphone, which then links you to a specific URL. NFC works in a similar way, although the technology is a chip embedded in material rather than a bar code, and the chip doesn’t need to be scanned, as you can wave your smartphone in the general area to be taken to the URL.  Many companies use these as a form of advertising, and whilst QR codes were once leading the pack, in recent years, NFC has steadily caught up.  But what benefits do QR codes offer over NFC?

 

The Upper Hand

QR codes may have the upper hand when it comes to usability as using one is as simple as scanning a bardcode.  All that’s needed to scan a QR code is an app, and there are plenty of QR scanner apps to choose from, many of which are available for free.  In order to read NFC, you need an NFC enabled smartphone, and whilst this technology is creeping into many new handsets, if you have an older smartphone, you may find you’re unable to read NFC, particularly if you have an iPhone, as Apple were slow to jump on board the NFC bandwagon.

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QR codes
By Roger [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Death of QR Codes

Many say that NFC will spell the death of QR codes, but experts say otherwise.  Although it’s true that NFC offers a more user-friendly experience, it could be more costly to implement.  Those using NFC will need to invest in chips (currently priced anywhere from around £0.40 – £20.00 per chip) as well as an encoding device which allows them to write the data to the chips.  When NFC printing systems become available, this could simplify the process, but let’s not forget that these systems could cost hundreds of thousands.

 

Minimal Difference

Whilst the way that QR codes and NFC codes interact with devices is different, there’s not much difference in the output for the end user, which implies that QR codes are here to stay for the foreseeable future, whilst NFC codes are also likely to become more popular thanks to Apple embracing the technology.  There are even options for people to link an API into their existing QR code platform, adding NFC chips or other technology to allow NFC to work alongside their current QR code advertising.  This means that your QR code marketing strategy is virtually future-proof!

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Who Wins?

When it comes to the battle between QR codes and NFC, there’s no clear winner.  Businesses are lucky in that they can choose to use one technology or the other, or try out both to see which they prefer and which works best for their business!  It looks unlikely that one or the other will take over, so expect to see both NFC and QR codes becoming increasingly popular over the next decade.

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