It seems that QR codes have made a comeback, just like flare jeans and 90s grunge plaid jackets (still unsure about this one). It wasn’t too long ago that QR codes were almost completely useless as part of any marketing campaign. Users had to download a separate app on their phone to scan the QR codes, just requiring one too many steps to something that was supposed to make something easier and quicker (hence the name ‘QR’, actually stands for Quick Response technology). Most marketing professionals would cringe when someone asked to add a QR code to any marketing collateral.
Fast forward to late 2017 when Apple released the iOS 11 update and integrated a native QR reader into their camera app (Android soon followed). All of a sudden, it prompted millions of users the ability to easily read a QR code and possibly skip some steps to: going directly to a website, opening a map location, downloading an app, etc. It opened up the door to marketers to figure out the best ways to utilize QR codes, and not making them a laughing stock of the advertising world again.
What’s Next for the QR Code?
The COVID-19 pandemic opened up a new door for QR codes. In fact, during a June 2021 survey, it was found that 59% of responding shoppers from the U.S. believed that QR codes would be a permanent part of mobile phone usage in the future (Statista). Many restaurants adopted the use of QR codes instead of paper menus to offer a more contactless experience. When you think more about this, it seems like a process that many restaurants should adopt moving forward- the restaurants can quickly update the menu content with new dishes or when they are out of something. Another great example is how ExxonMobil offers customers QR-enabled payments at stations to customers don’t have to touch as much at the pump. And of course it became even bigger in retail, for example: at one of Amazon’s grocery stores, you can scan the QR code on your cart to make the checkout experience contactless, and Burger King used it as a launch for Whopper giveaway in a commercial (see video). And of course, most of the social media platforms have incorporated QR codes in some way or another. All in all, the uptick use of QR codes in the last year and half, has made scanning them second nature for consumers.
As we hopefully move past the pandemic and into our “new normal”, what does this mean for the future of QR codes? Businesses need to think about quality over quantity for their customers, and not just throwing QR codes on everything just because we can. But when used correctly and thoughtfully, QR codes can beneficial to both the user and marketer.
Things to Consider When Utilizing a QR Code:
- Think about the user’s journey with scanning it – it’s crucial that the webpage the QR code is coded for is optimized for mobile and has a clear call-to-action (CTA).
- Think about the accessibility of the QR code when adding it to something – will the user be able to easily scan it? Will they be in a situation where they will have the time to think and scan it?
- Is the experience after scanning the QR code worth it? Make sure the user feels like they were rewarded for taking action (for example, a unique AR experience, an exclusive coupon, an app download, etc.)
There are so many great opportunities for the use of QR codes, I for one am excited to reconsider adding them into more of my campaigns moving forward (see example below).
- Choudhary, Sneh Ratna. “Are QR Codes Dead? Do People Still Use QR Codes in 2021?” Beaconstac, 6 Sept. 2021, blog.beaconstac.com/2019/02/year-of-qr-codes/#:%7E:text=for%20any%20use.-,The%20QR%20Code%20usage%20market%20in%202021,their%20ROI%20with%20QR%20Codes.
- “Did Apple Just Resurrect QR Codes?” Nebo Agency, 9 July 2018, www.neboagency.com/blog/apple-resurrect-qr-codes.
- Statista. “Importance of QR Codes for Shoppers in the U.S. 2021.” Statista, 16 Aug. 2021, www.statista.com/statistics/1254575/qr-codes-importance-usa.
- Stegner, Chris. “How Contactless Tech And QR Codes Will Bring Us Into The Future.” Forbes, 17 Aug. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2021/08/17/how-contactless-tech-and-qr-codes-will-bring-us-into-the-future/?sh=17e1cf351eca.