QR codes were once part of a store’s visual merchandising and graphics package, but often not a penny was added to the bottom line.

Looking in the window of an estate agent this weekend was something of a trip down memory lane. There were the normal rows of houses accompanied by the usual blurb extolling their virtues and they all looked pretty good.

Something was missing however. It was the price – implying perhaps that these were going to be beyond the reach of most folk and that instead there would be a ‘price on application’ notice somewhere.

But there wasn’t. Instead there were a series of QR codes. QR codes? Well yes. Back in the day (around 2010 to 2012), these were the next big thing for retailers who were sold on the idea that we’d all be wandering around with our mobile phones zapping these seemingly random black blobs contained within a square and gathering information.

Indeed, there was a point when it was quite hard to look at a shop window or a store display without seeing QR codes. Now they are gone and it is left to the likes of estate agents in sleepy Middle England villages to use them and best of luck – they’re probably an own goal as nobody could be bothered with the things then and the same applies now.

What the QR saga illustrates is how a Klondike-like rush is the outcome of retailers’ paranoia about not being included. That they were sold a marketing pup is by the by, at least they were not left out in the cold. The fact that not a penny was added to the bottom line in spite of the hours that went into creating stores festooned with the things is also of little consequence, it was the price of inclusion.

And somewhere, currently, there will be a QR code in the making – an IT solution in search of a consumer problem that doesn’t really exist. It could be iBeacons, maybe it will be shelf-edge screens or perhaps it will be windows with large elements of the digital about them. Who cares? Something good has got to come of it all hasn’t it?

Maybe, or is it just hi-tech Emperor’s New Clothes that deserve to be ignored and where the only justification is that it gives the marketing department something to busy themselves with?

Stop therefore. Think about whether the latest tech gizmo is worthwhile. And if there is any kind of doubt, hold fire. What’s the worst that can happen? You’re second rather than first with the latest digital dalliance.