Back in 2011, a picture went round the world of a young man pointing his smartphone at a poster on the Seoul subway.
This was supposed to be the Tesco virtual supermarket and the idea was that while waiting for your train you would scan the QR code beneath one of the everyday products on the poster and it would then be delivered, money having been taken from your account.
Not a bad idea really, except that the Seoul subway is not the most conducive environment in which to do a spot of grocery shopping.
“Scanning QR codes turned out to be something of a waste of time”
Suddenly QR codes were everywhere, filling shop windows. All on the supposition that we would all be wandering around scanning and getting must-look-at information or access to promotions.
The apogee was probably when an electricals retailer decided to do something similar to the Tesco virtual supermarket in an underpass in central Barcelona. You might be in a hurry to get through the tunnel, but you’d still find time to pause and maybe purchase a speaker costing a few hundred pounds and then continue on your way.
It was never going to happen, and as retailers began to discover, scanning QR codes turned out to be something of a waste of time.
Almost as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone, and shoppers might have been forgiven for thinking that was that. Now they’re back and shoppers are once again being enjoined to get scanning.
This time around most of the action seems to be in China, where you can visit supermarkets and scan to your heart’s content with the goods then appearing in a virtual basket, ready to be totted up at the end of your shopping journey.
It’s pretty likely that the technology to make all of this happen has changed since 2011 and now things will be swifter and easier.
“This time it is probable that there will be sufficient traction in terms of reasons for doing it for it to become a permanent retail feature”
More to the point, this time it looks like scanning with a purpose – making the passage through a supermarket just that bit less of a chore and maybe freeing the shopper up to spend more time considering what they might want to buy beyond the basics.
Scanning is on a roll once more and this time it is probable that there will be sufficient traction in terms of reasons for doing it for it to become a permanent retail feature.
Much was learnt in the first decade of the 21st century about what might work and what wouldn’t, and now we might be at a crossroads where enough has been trialled to understand out what has lasting worth.
Never thought we’d see QR codes and suchlike making a return, mind.