QR Codes: What the Numbers REALLY Say

By | November 18, 2015

Lately, there has been a lot of talk that QR Codes are dead, that as a response mechanism they are passé in favor of sexier approaches like augmented reality (AR) and near-field communications (NFC). However, the data don’t support this claim.

This week, I released a complete front-to-back update of “QR Codes: The Data Speaks,” now called “QR Codes by the Numbers: Compiled Data 2015.” This report gathers data from around the industry, both recent and historical, to put the QR Code growth and adoption into perspective.

When we look at the compiled data over time, there are some clear trends that we see:

  • Adoption has been hovering around 30% of cellphone users.
  • Marketers indicate that their use of QR Codes is — not on the decline as so many people would have you believe — but on the rise.
  • While more men are still scanning than women, it’s much a more balanced environment than it has been in the past. The percentages are now much closer to 50/50.
  • The demographic of the typical QR Code scanner is getting older. The majority of scanners are now 35+ years old (as opposed to 18-34 years old, as it has been in the past).
  • Scanning continues to dominate in retailing, where people are scanning for product information and discounts.
  • Growth in mobile payments via QR Codes is significant and rising.

I have been watching the QR Code data for years. I hear what people say about the death of these useful tools, but this is what I see in the numbers . . . and what I see confirmed with my own eyes.

One of the challenges in watching this market is that the research environment has changed. During 2011-2013, a lot of research was being done on adoption of QR Codes. Dedicated studies were being conducted on the percentage of cellphone owners using them, gender and other demographics of those users, what media they were scanning, and how these codes were being used. Places like Marketing Charts, eMarketer, and others kept rolling tabs of user behavior.

As QR Codes have increasingly become part of the overall marketing landscape, however, dedicated QR Code research is much harder to come by. Instead of having entire reports on the subject, that data is now buried in reports on mobile lifestyles, mobile apps, and related topics. It is increasingly rolled into mobile scanning at large (or at the least, barcode scanning), which could also include UPC codes.

Still, there is lots of data out there. You just have to dig a little more to find it.

What does the reduction in dedicated QR-Code-specific research mean? What it doesn’t mean is that QR Codes aren’t important or relevant anymore. On the contrary, what it does mean is that QR Codes have become such an established part of response marketing that they aren’t the sole focus anymore. Companies that regularly update their QR Code data tend to be suppliers of proprietary codes that analyze their own user bases looking to differentiate their companies in a landscape of competitors.

So to address the talk that QR Codes are dead, that they are passé in favor of sexier approaches like augmented reality and near-field communications, I respect people’s opinions. However, I’m a numbers gal. The data don’t line up. Not only do we see QR Code adoption on a consistent upward trend, but we see them more and more places. From direct mail to catalogs, to the doors of rental cards and the fronts of exercise equipment at the gym, to product packaging and even fruit at the grocery store. Every time you turn around, there is a QR Code in a new location.

As far as I’m concerned, QR Codes are alive and well. They just aren’t going to be the end all, be all of mobile response marketing. But then, they were never intended to be.

For more information on the report, click here.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “QR Codes: What the Numbers REALLY Say

  1. Randy "Euby" Eubank

    QR codes are not dead…they are just “aging” like fine wine! ( I can say that …as I am also )
    I still remember my first use of those in print media…and a client saying “we are not in
    Japan…this market is NOT READY for those”…..( that was only a handful of years back )

    They are not dead…not even dying…open rates are pretty constant….avid users are probably
    growing a little older with them….

    They may be “slightly cooling” but in no way COLD !

    QR Codes are simply one of many tools we have to market with….and like I always preach in Marketing….. “Cross Media Marketing” requires touching many people in many different ways.

    Use them all…why “limit” your effectiveness.
    Happy Thanksgiving ! Euby

  2. Paul

    They may not be dead or even or even on life support but I think they will only eventually be used in low margin/low cost packaging.

    QR codes were a great option when there were few other such a SMS or typing in a URL. Their adoption relative to these technologies is certainly on the rise.

    In my humble opinion NFC will replace QR on mid to high priced items when the price points become more pallet able because of the ease of getting content (tap and play) and the ability to send unique content to a unique user. Tapping for info is the future because of the ease of connecting. Also, who wants to print an ugly code on their packaging when AR and NFC are transparent (except maybe a waterproof Coke bottle)? NFC carries the added advantage of not having to take a picture or even see the icon or image you are trying to identify with.

    QR will have a place for some time and may not truly ever die on low cost or low importance packaging but there are better alternative coming.

  3. Paul

    They may not be dead or even or even on life support but I think they will only eventually be used in low margin/low cost packaging.

    QR codes were a great option when there were few other such a SMS or typing in a URL. Their adoption relative to these technologies is certainly on the rise.

    In my humble opinion NFC will replace QR on mid to high priced items when the price points become more pallet able because of the ease of getting content (tap and play) and the ability to send unique content to a unique user. Tapping for info is the future because of the ease of connecting. Also, who wants to print an ugly code on their packaging when AR and NFC are transparent (except on maybe a water or Coke bottle)? NFC carries the added advantage of not having to take a picture or even see the icon or image you are trying to identify with.

    QR will have a place for some time and may not truly ever die on low cost or low importance packaging but there are better alternative coming.

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