An invasion seems to be under way, spreading across posters, print ads and now into retailers’ stores and onto the very packaging of products themselves.

An invasion seems to be under way, spreading across posters, print ads and now into retailers’ stores and onto the very packaging of products themselves.

What am I talking about? QR codes, those small boxes full of black and white dots that seem to have spread like a virus across the UK over the past six months. From being virtually non-existent this time last year, it’s almost impossible to walk down the street without them catching your gaze.

Sensing a good PR opportunity, especially as it involves people pointing smartphones at things, retailers seem to have jumped on the bandwagon.

We had Tesco, whose QR shopping wall in a South Korean tube station won so many plaudits that it was quickly followed by Ocado in the UK and Jumbo in Chile. Most recently Sears and Kmart in the US have launched QR code walls to promote their toy range in time for Christmas.

All examples have made plenty of headlines, but is it just me that finds the prospect of staring and pointing your phone at hundreds of pixelated back and white dots on a wall an unappealing way to shop?

My problem with QR codes is two-fold. First, they simply look awful. Whatever their benefits, stamping a monochrome box on a product already crowded with bar codes, ingredients, nutritional information is a visual overload.

Second, the whole concept requires the user to make the effort and do something they wouldn’t normally do. Sure, scanning the codes may be a gimmick at first, but is this something we are likely to want to do again and again?

Rather, the future of pushing additional content to customers surely lies in a more elegant solution. The newly launched Amazon Flow app, for example, recognises products through a combination of product recognition technology and reading the barcode.

Users are then able to access a whole range of information related to the product, such as customers’ reviews. As technology advances, such solutions supersede the need for QR codes altogether. Maybe it’s best to think of QR codes as the ‘scratch and sniff’ of this generation – but at least they were fun.