I’m getting tired of technology pundits complaining about “slow” QR code adoption. I just updated my report “QR Codes: What You Need to Know,” and as part of that effort, I scrapped all of the old data and scoured the industry for the most recent data on QR code adoption and use.
In the process, I found some great stuff. I also found some irritating stuff. One of the irritants came from Mashable Business, where QR codes were referred to as being adopted at “a sloth-like pace.
Although the concept is smart, is it worth the effort, especially given the sloth-like pace QR codes have been adopted in the U.S. and other western countries? About 14 million U.S. cellphone owners — about 4.5% of the country’s population — scanned a QR code last month, according to comScore. 
Sloth-like pace? That’s funny because I see QR codes everywhere — from electronics to watermelons. It seems that I cannot go a single day without tripping over one, and I’m not out and about much because I seem to live in my home office. The irony is that, before reading that post, I had just written these paragraphs in the QR code report:
In December of 2011, 20% of smartphone users in the United States (which amount to about 42% to 53% of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers depending on whose data you use) had scanned a QR code. (ComScore MobiLens April 2012)
In addition, Nellymoser found that readers of national magazines scan QR codes, Microsoft Tags, digital watermarks and other mobile action codes at an average rate of 6.4%. This compares to 4.4% for direct mail, according to the Direct Marketing Association. 
So depending on which data you use, QR code scanning is either at pace or above that of direct mail response rates overall. That’s not exactly sloth-like.
The other irony is that I clicked through the Mashable author’s link to that data, and while she says “last month,” what she really means is a year and one month ago — her write-up was posted on Mashable in July 2012, but the comScore data she cites is from June 2011. So comparing her June 2011 comScore data to the more recent comScore data, the percentage of consumers who have scanned QR codes has risen from 4.5% of the U.S. population to 20% of smartphone users (or roughly 10% of the U.S. population) in just about a year.
Even going back to the June 2011 numbers, that’s still not a bad percentage. I think people forget that QR codes are just a response mechanism like any other. I haven’t mailed in a BRE or called an 800 number in years. That doesn’t mean those response mechanisms don’t work. They just aren’t the right response mechanisms for me. Or, um, maybe I’m just not interest in the product.
After being eyeball deep in QR and other 2d code data this week, I can assure this Mashable author that, regardless of which year’s data she is using, mobile barcodes are part of the fabric both of marketing and consumer lives. If readers are scanning them at rates equal to or higher than the average direct mail piece, in my book, that’s pretty darn good.