It’s Official — People Snap QR Codes Even When Computers Are Available

One of the questions often asked about QR codes if whether people will read them at home or in their offices where their computer is available. Desktop computers have larger, easier-to-read screens, so it makes sense that people would prefer their computers over snapping the QR code to view content with their cellphones.

Except that isn’t what’s happening.

Case study to case study, we see that from 65% to 70% of people who respond to campaigns with a QR code use the QR code even when they are in the presence of a desktop computer.

Just this morning, I released “QR Codes: What You Need to Know,” a 40-page report on the technology, use, and best practices of QR codes. In it, there are three case studies that specifically tracked QR code use in the presence of a home or office computer. Overwhelmingly, people chose the code.

It’s why QR codes are showing up on everything, including email and webpages.

What’s the reason? Is it because it’s faster than typing in? The QR code option stores the information on their phones? They’re heading out the door and don’t want to be tied to the chair? They want to test the code? Maybe they have just become so accustomed to use their phones for everything that it’s compulsion.

Whatever the reason, this appears to be a well-established trend. When given a choice, people are choosing to snap QR codes over typing in URLs at least two-thirds of the time.

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12 thoughts on “It’s Official — People Snap QR Codes Even When Computers Are Available

  1. Lou Berceli

    Heidi, thanks for helping us to learn more about the rapidly growing market with QR Code applications.

    This trend will continue to grow as QR and 2D Codes become more a part of our consumer information daily culture.

    If you are interested in learning more about QR barcodes which are just one type of 2D barcode, you should join the “2D Codes for Global Media” group on LinkedIn. The group has over 1100 global members and is the largest networking group of its kind.

    You can refer any of your colleagues within the Print, Mobile, e-commerce, e-media, advertising and distribution / supply chain markets, via the URL link below.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Speaking of that group, I want to share a comment from one of the discussions in that group. I’ve had a number of people question my observations above (about people clicking QR codes even when computers are available), claiming that THEY would never do such a thing. Therefore, my observations must be wrong.

    I want to quote a comment from Richard Sloan, CEO at Fergies Print & Mail, which he posted in a discussion in the 2D Barcode group:

    “I was recently chatting with Australia’s largest Teco Telstra. They trialed the use of 2D’s with a publisher for selected magazines over a six-month period in 2009. The magazine’s web site had a 0.5% response rate to their banner page ads. The same published magazines had a 6.5% response rate using 2D barcode.”

    Once again, when the choice was between the easy click and the QR code, users overwhelmingly chose the QR code. This is again consistent with the results I shared from the case studies in my report.

  3. Nick Pride

    Heidi, these are interesting results. Given the availability of QR code readers (in the UK the iphone is the only device on which one is pre-installed – smartphone users have to find and download their own, and of course not everyone has a smartphone … ), then there’s a strong suggestion that the uplift in response may be coming from a distinct segment of the audience. Exploring that segmentation further could be a profitable line of enquiry.

  4. darren b

    The potential is here for this technology to help keep print highly relevant.

    You need to engage NOW.

    QR and AR (augmented reality) will be the wave our our future. PURL’s were a great idea, providing data points back to the marketing company and originator, but who wanted to type in 30 or 40 characters, just to get to the web-site? (of course if the consumer did you immediately knew there was a degree of interest).

    There are huge capabilities with QR and AR technology, from marketing value, to verification value, to security value. Some manufacturers are even coming up with clear fluorescing inks so the QR is not obvious, but can be verified.

    No all this being said, I strongly encourage you to engage now, as it will be a part of your future. Begin to implement for yourself. Don’t just slap a QR code on the back of your biz card to get started… although its a great idea you have to go further… find out the software that needs to be downloaded to the phone or camera, and create a spot on your web page to place these links and educational information about the technology. Also, place the URL under the QR code on your biz card, so the customer can come to your site, learn, and then use. You will then become the subject matter expert and you will then win more often!

    FYI, I included the wiki link for AR and pasted specifically a bit of text below.

    Advertising: Marketers started to use AR to promote products via interactive AR applications. For example, at the 2008 LA Auto Show, Nissan unveiled the concept vehicle Cube and presented visitors with a brochure which, when held against a webcam, showed several versions of the vehicle[11]. In August 2009, Best Buy ran a circular with an augmented reality code that allowed users with a webcam to interact with the product in 3D

  5. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

    @ Gordon.

    Sorry, I may not have been clear enough. What I meant by people snapping QR codes in the presence of a computer is that there is usually a hyperlink (if it’s email) or a URL (if it’s print) that people can use. So it’s not that people have the choice between reading a QR code in an email or on the computer but rather the choice between reading a QR code and clicking through a hyperlink or typing in the link by hand from a print piece. If that makes sense.

  6. Jordan Trump


    Gordon, you can use iCandy to scan QR codes on your computer. I actually use this to scan QR codes often, as I’m interested in promoting the technology but lack a smartphone. iCandy works pretty well and is easier than snatching someone’s phone for testing 🙂

    Will check out the report. Could be useful to me!

  7. Noel Ward

    I must not get the right emails, browse the right web pages, read the right publications, or be on the right direct mail lists, because I am rarely seeing the QR codes that Heidi says are everywhere.

    I seem so rarely that I notice them them when they do show up. But then again, I’m not a typical consumer who has to click on every possible link so I can buy stuff I don’t need.

    But more to the point, how is the real world sell through that can be directly attributed to QR codes? Clicks and scans and visits to some web page don’t mean much if people don’t buy.

  8. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro


    I understand your point. I’ve only seen a few in my own real life, as well. But when I immerse myself in the QR code world, it’s really quite shocking how common they are. I’m on the list serves and blogs and LinkedIn groups and the examples just keep coming. The volume seems to be occurring in the large brand marketing, entertainment, and travel industries. When you start reading all of the entries in places like the 2d barcode LinkedIn group and blogs like the 2d barcode site, it’s quite amazing, really, how high the volume seems to be.

    We also see 1:1 and W2P software suppliers adding QR codes to their solutions en masse, as well.

  9. Noel Ward


    It sounds as if your sample may be a bit biased, but that’s OK.

    So Being the devil’s advocate here….
    If entertainment, brand marketing and travel are using them, do you know what they are seeing for response rates and more importantly sell-through? It’s nice if a QR code generates website visits and requests for information, but the real measure is how those requests result in new revenue. And can that revenue be directly attributed to the use of the QR code?

    Or was the respondent an existing customer who happened to use the QR code, but may well have bought something anyway?

    Or was the QR code for a unique offer, not available any other way, and has generated new business or revenue? (this is the best way to really test the effectiveness of QR codes).

    Or is the use one of convenience, like having the code read off your smartphone when boarding a plane? (Which only eliminates printing of a boarding pass. Big deal.)

    I also wonder how what percentage of people who have smartphones even know they can use them with QR codes? Or even know what a QR code is? Has any one seen any info or data on this?

    Are QR codes simply the latest gee-whizz capability to add to software, or the hippest thing to include in an ad? Or do they really matter at a B2B and B2C level? They seem cool, but except for companies who have a vested interest in promoting them, do they really matter?

  10. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro


    I’m not sure I’d say my samples were biased. I would say they are from the larger world of marketing and advertising not so focused on print. It’s a different world than many of us in the print industry are used to watching. It’s much broader and more diverse.

    I got this from a MediaPost e-newsletter just this morning, for example — Kelly’s Blue Book is adding QR codes to automotive stickers so that dealers can update pricing on their vehicles without having to reprint and readhere stickers. It’s also part of a larger social media strategy:

    On the issue of results, I would agree that it’s great if you can tie the campaign directly to sales, but that is the case with all marketing strategies, not just QR codes. We have the same challenge even with personalized URLs and 1:1 printing. It’s one thing to track response rates, but the ability to track through the sale is much more rare.

    Are they more than cool? Absolutely! They are providing a way to interact with customers that is just incredible. Take the Kelly Blue Book example above. Or the addition of QR codes to CD jewel cases — a friend comes over, loves the band, snaps the code, and can listen to music and buy the MP3 download right there, before he has the chance to forget about it.

    My report on QR codes (QR Codes: What You Need to Know) is filled with examples, images, and case studies. I think we are way too limited in our thinking about QR codes in this industry. We need to get out and see what is going on in the broader world of marketing to understand what the value of these codes really is.

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