Paper business cards are replaced by QR codes, other technologies

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There’s a growing trend away from the business card as we know it, and maybe for good reason. Before the pandemic, approximately 27 million business cards were printed every day around the world, totaling more than 7 billion a year. Yet, according to Adobe data, 88% of business cards distributed are thrown in less than a week.

Instead, businessmen are turning to technology. These days, rather than asking anyone you meet to hold onto your physical card and enter the information manually, you can offer a QR code that instantly links to your contact details. You may also come across something more off the beaten path, like tokens put in the jewelry Where acrylic nails, or perhaps a potential collaborator or client has a body implant who transmits their information.

Emily GlazerWall Street Journal reporter, joined “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal talk about the future of the business card. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.


Kai Rysdal: Tell me how you came across this story, will you?

Emily Glazer: It was one of those stories where I couldn’t avoid it. I kept, you know, trying to give people my business card at events. And I was getting different types of responses like “Here, look at this app on my cell phone that you can scan” or “Who still uses business cards?” Or, “I’ll write my number on your business cards” – stuff like that. And it literally got to the point where I felt like I was so bombarded that I felt like we needed to write a story.

Rysdal: Alright, so let’s go through some of them. One of them is the QR code. Tell me about QR codes and how they work – well, not how QR codes work, but the business card replacement theory.

Glazier: Absolutely. So I was at a dinner party in New York. And at the end of the event, the participants exchanged their coordinates. And I met Rob Krugman, who is the chief digital officer of Broadridge Financial Solutions. And he offered his LinkedIn QR code to people. And it’s basically something you tap on LinkedIn, you get a personalized QR code that pops up, and then people like me can scan it, and it automatically feeds their information into your phone and you can connect with them on LinkedIn. And Rob said he’s also used that QR code on PowerPoints when he’s giving speeches so people don’t have to, you know, just come up to him and ask him for contact information. They could just scan it.

Rysdal: OKAY. Let’s move up the technology ladder to chips and close-contact readers that can somehow read things in, like, a ring or whatever. Tell me this story.

Glazier: Yes, so QR codes have been around for a while, but implanting chips into your body is more recent. And so my colleague Alex [Harring] spoke with Derek Peterson, who literally implanted a chip in his hand between his left thumb and index finger. And that chip has his contact details, so when he meets someone new, people can use their phone to download the details of him.

Rysdal: We have to say here that your story is full of examples of phones that don’t quite read, have to adjust their position, try again and again. I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna boop! and you are ready. Right?

Glazier: Yeah. And again, this is something that I observed. I was at a business roundtable in Washington, D.C. And Robert Smith, this private equity billionaire, had this almost like a plastic hotel room key card that had a big QR code on it to redeem contact information with a participant. And I watched them for about a minute struggling. You know, he made sure his thumb didn’t cover the code. The participant put her phone at different angles. And then eventually he literally switched to a different card that had the QR code in a darker color. And There you go. And, you know, when I told him about it afterwards, he said in a statement that it’s still better than manually entering information, so even if it’s a little time consuming and even if it’s not perfect, he would use the traditional paper business card.

Rysdal: I’m guessing you, like me, have a pile of old business cards in one of your desk drawers and, you know, tied with rubber bands and all that.

Glazier: You have no idea, Kai, you have no idea.

Rysdal: I am on. At this moment, are they still useful to you? Will you join the 21st century? What are you going to do?

Glazier: Well, have I joined the 21st century? This is a much larger question than I imagined I was going to answer today. So it’s so funny Kai, after this article came out, you know, we got our new desks in our office and I literally brought all my business cards that I put in a box after I moved from LA to New York, and the rubber bands had literally snapped, and I’ve since stuffed them in the bottom of a closet drawer. My to-do list has this item that will never be crossed out, like “Enter contact information from business cards on excel sheet”. However, I really like the process of meeting someone, exchanging the card and it stimulates conversation. So there’s that too, and you can’t replace that with technology yet.

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