Debenhams Don't Get QR Codes

After the derisory efforts of Waitrose to properly utilise QR codes, it's disheartening to see Debenhams make a brand new mistake.

At the bottom of tonight's Evening Standard is this advert from Debenhams.

Debenhams QR Advert

Debenhams QR Advert

The QR code immediately caught my eye and - being the saddo that I am - I immediatley whipped out ZXing and scanned it in.

Debenhams QR Code

Debenhams QR Code

What goodies would it net me? A URL to visit their mobile site? Contact details for a Christmas order line?


Let me repeat that...

Mean anything to you? Nope? Me neither. I even read it with another scanner to see if my phone was going bonkers. It was not.

"db::LIST::static-0011445" What on earth can that mean? It was then that I noticed the instructions next to the code.

Download the Debenhams app for iPhone and use the barcode scanner to shop the ad and save 10%. Or Enter 0011445

Debenhams QR Instructions

What? Let me count the ways this is wrong...

  • What on earth does "shop the ad" mean? Is it a typo for "scan the ad"?
  • Roughly 5% of Debenhams customers have an iPhone - why is this restricted just to them?
  • I don't know how many people have already downloaded the Debenhams app - but fewer than 500 people have rated it. With an average rating of 3* - it's unlikely many more will grab it.

The customer interaction is currently "Do I have an iPhone (probably no). Have I installed the app (probably no). Can I install this 6.4MB app while I'm on the train (probably no). Now let me scan the advert."

What kind of response rate is that likely to get?

How They Should Have Done It

Here's how the code should work - in my opinion.

  • Point the code at - that way, the 95% of phone which aren't iPhone will have somewhere to go. If there isn't a mobile Debenhams site - make it redirect to an advert hosted on YouTube.
  • If an iPhone visits that URL, check to see if they have the application installed. If they don't, redirect them to the iTunes store.

Pretty damn simple.

Remember - most of your customers don't have the same phone as all the cool kids in your marketing department. Not all your customers live and breath your brand - don't expect them to have your application on their phone.

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7 thoughts on “Debenhams Don't Get QR Codes”

  1. Ruth Attridge says:

    Hi Terence, I work at Debenhams and noticed this post regarding our use of QR codes. We thought you might be interested in some information about our customers’ mobile usage. iPhone users are the largest percentage of smartphone users for Debenhams customers and so we felt it was a good place to start targeting this activity. We do however have plans to develop the app for further handsets and ultimately want to develop a mobile site so that all smartphone users can shop for Debenhams products on their phones. We know we need to keep developing this offering, and we’re expecting to learn along the way and all feedback is really useful, so thank you!

    1. Rik says:

      What I see is that you like your highest percentage customers, but you don't care at all about the rest.

      It's like making a building with a bunch of stairs up to the entrance. It may look pretty but unless you build a ramp you've alienated all the wheelchair users with a firm and deliberate action.

      When you build a system to interact with people, you make sure it interacts nicely with everyone otherwise you're actively pushing people away. Seeing "I'm sorry, while we have a mobile app, unfortunately we haven't got it for your platform yet, please show this message at the checkout and we'll give you a fiver off" on the screen is a lot better than simply giving an incomprehensible code, and it gives the customer a feeling that they will be targetted directly soon.

  2. says:

    iPhone users are the largest percentage of smartphone users for Debenhams customers and so we felt it was a good place to start targeting this activity.

    I'm not sure how you calculated that the majority of your smartphone customers use an iPhone, but what about everyone who doesn't own a smartphone, but owns a phone that IS capable of visiting a mobile website?

    My phone is probably 5 years old and yet it can happily visit mobile websites - but I presume my "ye olde phone" wouldn't have been counted in your research as it isn't a smartphone.

    You may have supported the correct platform for smartphone users - but still managed to ignore the bulk of the mobile phone userbase.

  3. Well,

    I do shop at Debenhams.

    I do have an iPhone.

    I do virtually all of my shopping online.

    And even I am bemused why Debenhams would take a QR code that only works with their application? The solution you suggest - go to a mobile website that all users could see - strikes me as so obviously superior.


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