QR codes, discovered in 1994 by Denso Wave, have reshaped the marketing landscape. They rose to popularity in the early 2010s as they offered a cost-effective way to connect the physical and digital worlds. QR codes could be printed on any physical surface to drive digital actions like payments, information sharing, contact sharing, etc.
However, they faded quickly, mainly because of a lack of awareness. Smartphone adoption wasn’t as high as today, and people didn’t know what QR codes were and how to scan them.
After a hiatus of about five to seven years, QR codes returned. First, it happened in Asia — primarily China and India — and then expanded to the US and Europe. The increased smartphone adoption and internet accessibility brought QR codes back, and the pandemic made them the norm. Today, QR codes are one of the most substantial marketing trends even after the pandemic has diminished.
Here are some research papers and statistics that build the case for QR codes as a marketing and customer engagement tool.
Mobile adoption and the rise of mobile marketing
The accelerating mobile adoption worldwide has played a vital role in increasing the popularity of QR codes. The following table showcases the smartphone adoption rate in different parts of the world in 2021 and the projected adoption rate in 2025.
Here are some other statistics highlighting the rising usage of smartphones.
- 6.64 billion people will use a smartphone or feature phone by the end of 2022, and this number will only increase in the upcoming years.
- Of these mobile phones, 71.45% are Android, 27.83% are iOS, 0.41% are Samsung, 0.12% are KaiOS, 0.01% are Nokia, and the remaining 0.12% are unknown.
- Along with increasing smartphone adoption, internet use has also increased worldwide. 5.25 billion people worldwide have access to the internet.
The increasing mobile adoption and internet use have made mobile marketing a priority for brands. Here are some mobile marketing statistics every marketer should know.
- Mobile advertising will make up 50% of the total ad spend by 2022.
- 87% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile.
- Mobile devices make up 53% of all paid search clicks.
- 55% of all website visits are from mobile devices.
And as mobile and internet adoption continue to skyrocket, mobile marketing will only grow more prominent. Hence, many brands have started jumping up on this trend. They’re focusing on connecting with customers on mobile using mobile apps, mobile-first websites, etc.
QR codes enable brands to bring offline consumers to mobile. You can leverage QR codes to bring consumers to mobile devices from offline media like newspapers, magazines, brochures, billboards, etc.
Research: Usefulness, acceptability, and feasibility of QR codes
A research report published in the International Journal of Engineering Business Management evaluated the impact of QR codes on customer satisfaction and purchase intention.
The report showed that the usefulness, acceptability, and feasibility of QR codes positively impacted the perceived flow. Additionally, the perceived flow was positively associated with customer satisfaction and purchase intention.
Here’s the structural modeling analysis of the usefulness, acceptability, and feasibility of QR codes:
The research concluded that QR codes are useful, acceptable, and feasible in the modern-day marketing landscape. Marketers can leverage QR codes to facilitate two-way communication and coordinate customer relationships. Therefore, marketers who strategically implement QR codes can get more sales and improve customer satisfaction.
Google Trends also confirms the rising popularity of QR codes. The Interest Over Time of the topic “QR Code” was just 23 in June 2017. It snowballed to 100 in November 2021, which is the peak Interest Over Time value on Google Trends.
A survey conducted to determine the usage of QR codes found that 83% of American consumers scanned a QR code at least once in their life. Furthermore, 72% scanned a QR code at least once in 30 days.
Another survey showed that 52.6 million US smartphone users used QR codes in 2019. This number is projected to reach 99.5 million by 2025 — nearly a 100% increase.
Effectiveness of QR codes for marketing
A research paper in ScienceDirect by Procedia highlighted the effectiveness of QR codes in marketing. It discovered the following marketing use cases of QR codes:
- Increase distribution coverage
- Eliminate location cost
- Reduce operational expenses:
- Increase sales and revenue
- Track customer actions and buying patterns
The paper concluded that tremendous capabilities exist for QR codes in marketing, and brands that use them adequately can reap substantial benefits.
Consumer perspective of using QR codes
A research paper published in the International Journal of Commerce, Business, and Management (IJCBM) delved into the consumer perspective of using QR codes. Researchers distributed 52 questionnaires to participants.
Of the participants, 28.85% were 21-30-year-olds, 25% were 11-20-year-olds, and 21.15% were 31-40-year-olds.
The survey discovered that 84.62% of the respondents had scanned a QR code at least once. Researchers also found that the frequency of QR code usage increased significantly over time, exhibiting a positive relationship between time and QR code acceptance.
How do QR codes fit in the marketing mix?
For QR codes to be an effective marketing tool, they must fit into the marketing fix. The traditional marketing mix comprises 4 Ps:
Later, a customer-oriented marketing mix was introduced, which comprised four Cs:
So, here’s what the modern marketing mix looks like:
And here’s how QR codes fit in the new marketing mix:
The findings concluded that QR codes fit the modern marketing mix and can be a handy tool for marketing and customer engagement. The study also highlighted numerous use cases of QR codes for marketing, including:
- Leading users from product brochures to product videos
- Sharing price information with in-store customers
- Providing in-depth product information in stores
- Sharing URLs and information on social media channels
- Bringing people to websites, social media, etc., through billboards, signage, email, and online advertisements
QR codes are versatile, and you can use them at various places. Let’s look at some channels that account for the most QR code scans.
QR codes in print media advertising
Print media has been one of the oldest channels to engage customers. Newspapers, magazines, brochures, flyers, etc., have existed for decades — before the internet was prevalent.
Even though digital media has taken over the advertising world, print media still has a place.
Here are some statistics that showcase the relevance of print media:
- The global print media market is expected to reach $320.07 billion by 2022.
- 82% of consumers trust print ads the most when making purchase decisions.
- 95% of people aged 25 years or less read magazines. Moreover, 92% of consumers aged 18-23 say printed content is easier to consume than digital content.
- Ad spending in newspapers was $30 billion in 2021.
However, print media has changed significantly. People are always online, and they expect digital experiences from offline channels, like print media. This has encouraged brands to combine print and digital ads. In fact, marketing campaigns that combine print and digital media witness 400% better results.
QR codes effectively bridge the gap between online and print media, and magazines have been using QR codes since 2011. A paper published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research showed that over 4,500 QR codes were printed in the top 100 global magazines in 2011.
Back then, QR codes in magazines were used for the following purposes:
- Generating commerce and product information — 40.70%
- Branding — 23.20%
- Sharing video content — 12.70%
- Getting signups for contests/sweepstakes — 7.80%
- Sharing store information — 3.50%
A decade later, the applications of QR codes are still the same. Bringing people to websites and social media, sharing information, and generating signups and leads continue to be the key uses of QR codes in print media.
QR code marketing use cases
QR codes have numerous marketing applications, from increasing website traffic to sharing discount coupons. Here are some statistics that showcase the increasing use cases of QR codes in marketing.
- Brands use QR codes to share discount coupons. A whopping 5.3 billion QR code coupons will likely be obtained by the end of 2022.
- Several brands use QR codes as labels on product packaging. The QR code labels market is projected to reach $2.1 billion by 2027.
- Digital business cards are redefining QR codes. With QR code business cards, professionals can share their contact details in a flash. The global digital business card market is projected to reach $242.3 million by 2027.
QR codes carry immense marketing potential. Although the smartphone boom and the pandemic have made QR codes popular, they continue to be an underutilized marketing asset. All the research we compiled above points in one direction — QR codes are ideal for marketing, and brands should incorporate them in their marketing strategies.
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