It’s been an interesting week in the code-scanning world. Two of the world’s leading tech companies announced new initiatives in the space.

Firstly, Snapchat announced the expansion of their popular Snapcodes to support websites. Businesses will be able to configure a Snapcode with their website URL and Snapchat users will be able to scan it, from a shop window for example, to get to that business’ site.

This is nothing new in theory - it’s similar to QR codes. But, in the West at least, QR codes never excited the general public. Snapchat, and others like Quikkly, figured out that giving consumers a more obvious branded code acts as a more effective visual trigger to engagement. Usage grew fast on Snapchat and now there are hundreds of millions of young consumers who positively embrace scanning because it’s easy and saves time.

Having built that user behaviour, Snapchat now see an opportunity to act as a default gateway between the physical and digital worlds. The opportunity is big - imagine if all those Facebook and Twitter logos we see on ads, menus, store windows and so on had been interactive from the start.

Secondly, Google announced the addition of a QR-code scanner to their Chrome app for iOS. This is no doubt a nod to the popularity of QR codes in Asia. Given that QR codes have been used for getting to websites, it makes sense that users be expected to launch Chrome to scan a QR code.

Why all this focus on codes and scanning now? We see two primary reasons:

  1. Consumers love instant experiences: scanning has been through its trough of disillusionment and is now firmly on the up in the Slope of Enlightenment (see Gartner’s Hype Curve). Younger consumers demand ever-more instant solutions to everyday surfing/watching/sharing/ listening. Scanning makes sense. Why spend 50 seconds manually connecting with a user when you can scan to connect in 5 seconds or less?
     

  2. Web giants need new growth: for web companies, conquering the offline everyday is the natural next step, now that the playbooks for user acquisition and engagement on desktop and mobile have been exhausted. Hence the push behind technologies and services that go beyond browsers and apps and that enable people to get online (or get something done online) via other means, whether it be using their voice, scanning or pushing a dedicated button to reorder cereal online (Amazon Dash).

So 2017 is already shaping up to see scanning go even more mainstream. Those of us who were burned by the early hype about QR need to put our skepticism aside and embrace scanning. With backing from Google, Snapchat, Facebook and more, ignoring it is no longer an option.