Knowing about QR Codes vs. Using Them

While mobile scanning is still a distance from mass consumer usage, it hasn’t stopped the proliferation of codes on packaging and signage.

For QR code proponents, the good news is that most people at least know what they are. The bad news, of course, is that most people have never scanned one.

Some new research in the Mobile Commerce Compendium shows that 91% know what a QR code is but 65% have never scanned one in-store.

The eConsultancy study is based on a Toluna survey of 1,000 UK consumers looking at smartphone behaviors. It found that more than a third (36%) had used a map tool in the previous week, so shoppers potentially are looking for physical stores.

The study also showed that about a quarter (27%) had used a smartphone to shop online but that more than half (51%) had not made a purchase.



For QR code scanning in stores, a quarter of consumers have scanned at least once.

A recent report from Scanbuy, one of the major QR code platform companies, showed that there were 18 million scans of QR codes and UPC mobile barcodes the first quarter of this year.

That research also indicated scanning is on the rise, with the latest month in the study being the highest-generating month since the company began tracking scans in 2009.

It strikes me that there are two separate issues around QR codes: the number of codes proliferating and the number of people actually scanning them.

There’s little doubt that QR codes are growing, whether in magazines, or on billboards, signage or packaging. The government in Abu Dhabi is even putting QR codes on street signs so people can access historical information, as well as accurate addresses.

The move to mass consumer adoption is the other side of the QR code coin.

In terms of those who do scan, Scanbuy found that 65% of the scans are by men and 35% by women. The company also saw higher  usage from Android phones (57%) than Apple iOS devices (35%).

They key for mobile scanning is what each scan leads to. (This issue will be addressed in a session at the MediaPost OMMA mCommerce conference in New York on July 15).

We’re well past the stage of a QR code simply replicating a URL, leading a consumer to a traditional website. They can be used to facilitate a purchase, start a conversation via SMS or MMS or provide a relevant video.

The problem with QR codes has never been the codes themselves but rather the lack of valuable experiences on the other end.


OMMA mCommerce, July 15, New York., IHG, MasterCard, BBDO, Rapp, Joule, ScanBuy, Huge, Spyderlynk, Rue La La, BYNDL, Catalina, Giant Eagle, Payvia, Ansible, Moxie Interactive coming. Here’s the AGENDA.

5 comments about "Knowing about QR Codes vs. Using Them".
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  1. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, July 1, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

    That is no doubt part of it Paula, though some consumers find scanning products and finding lower prices a worthwhile reason to scan. And some retailers want to make additional information available to those who want it, at the moment, far from the majority, of course.

  2. Ari Fuld from Visualead, July 2, 2013 at 2:05 a.m.

    Let's look at this issue with a simple equation. Over a billion people are walking around with smartphones with both the ability and desire to interact. QR Codes are the most commonly used marketing tool to lead people from an offline ad to an online mobile experience.
    QR Codes should have taken off a while ago. I believe the problem lies in two factors:
    1. Because they are so cheap marketers do not plan or think before using them. It's an attitude of " it's free, why not"
    2. Customers and users do not like to engage with a computer code. It's kind of like asking people to leave a message on an answering machine.
    When it comes to Marketers, there is really only 1 thing that has to be done and that is learn how to use QR Codes in your marketing campaigns! Plan ahead and make the mobile experience worth your customers time. You offer real value, they will scan!
    When it comes to the computer appearance of the QR Code, there really is no excuse. There are so many companies using designed and personalized QR Code designs which help catch the eye of the potential scanner.
    Of course we at visualead went down a different route. We believe every design, picture or logo itself should be turned into a scannable call to action.
    Instead of designing a QR Code, turn the design itself into a QR Code.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, July 2, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.

    Well thought-out reasoning, Ari. Especially good point about making the experience worth a customer's time.

  4. Joe Zeinieh from TMP, July 2, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.

    Smart article re: the often maligned QR code. Love this line "The problem with QR codes has never been the codes themselves but rather the lack of valuable experiences on the other end."

  5. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, July 2, 2013 at 5:39 p.m.

    Thanks very much, Joe, appreciated.

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