If Consumers Aren’t Scanning Codes, Maybe They’re in the Wrong Venue

By | November 19, 2014

According to ExactTarget, more than one-third (34%) of smartphone owners report scanning a coupon or QR Code with a mobile device while shopping in a store. Forty-three percent have scanned a coupon or QR Code in the past six months. Of those who did, 90% found them to be useful.[1]

So why do we hear so much complaining that QR Codes aren’t being used? Is it because they are being used in the wrong venues?

Retail LocationsEven as QR Code use becomes more common, it is location-dependent. JiWire Insights has found that 80% of consumers use their mobile phones to enhance their experience while shopping, but where they do so varies considerably.[2]

  • 31% use them in retail shops
  • 21% use them in restaurants
  • 19% use them in service locations
  • 15% use them in financial venues

Even within each venue, there is variance. Overwhelmingly, use is found in clothing retail (28%), convenience stores (18%) and specialty stores (12%), followed by electronics (9%). After that, it drops precipitously.

If consumers are shopping in auto, discount, big box, DIY, grocery, sporting goods, home furnishings, or beauty, the phone is used much less.

So when it comes to encouraging the use of QR Codes, consider the market vertical. If your clients are in some of the lower mobile-use verticals, they should make sure the scanning value is clear and perhaps provide some kind of incentive.


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10 thoughts on “If Consumers Aren’t Scanning Codes, Maybe They’re in the Wrong Venue

  1. Gordon Pritchard

    For the ExactTarget numbers – where was the study conducted? How many smartphone users were polled? How were the smartphone users selected for the poll?

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    From the report:

    We tracked 470 voluntary consumers for a month to see how they used their smartphones and tablets to access the mobile web and mobile apps; we also asked them questions about how they use and view mobile devices in their lives. Digital tracking occurred from December 15, 2013 through January 15, 2014.

    You can download the entire report here:


  3. Anon

    What is the total number of QR scans completed by the 470 individuals over 1 month?

    43% have scanned a COUPON or QR code – what is the percentage for QR code only?

    More importantly, what are the real numbers? Who scanned what how many times? Percentages are more meaningful with the real numbers they are percentages of.

    I read the report – I did not find real numbers on actual QR scans over the 1 month period – maybe I missed it?

  4. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Agreed. I have read many surveys, and all of them show about the same percentages. About one-third of consumers have scanned a QR Code in the last six months. comScore, ExactTarget, Vibe, and others all show similar numbers. In this post, the point is not the percentage of people scanning QR Codes. It’s the breakdown of where those scans are occurring.

  5. Anon

    If the point is where the scans are occurring, wouldn’t that data be much more useful if it actually included the real number of scans?

    What good does it do anyone to see “X” percentage of a grand total of 17 scans of QR codes (for example, since I must make assumptions when data is not provided) were completed in retail shops?

    It is imperative to include the number of total scans or the breakdowns will be assumed to be irrelevant. They will be assumed irrelevant because one will have to make the assumption (without readily available or forthcoming data) that the number of actual scans was marginal. Marginal numbers of scans would make the location data unreliable at best.

    If the number of scans was substantial, would that not reinforce your location data? Why would total number of QR scans not just be included immediately, regardless of what was trying to be presented with respect to the breakdown? There were actual numbers included that showed times a day visiting sites, email, etc. – why not include actual QR scans too?

  6. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    I’ve been tracking the adoption of QR Codes for a number of years, and the percentage of users is holding steady around one-third of consumers, regardless of source of the data. I hope this is helpful.

  7. Anon

    Of the 470 participants that you tracked for 1 month, HOW MANY QR CODES WERE ACTUALLY SCANNED?

  8. Anon

    We know – sorry for the lack of clarity on our part…

    It was just kind of a rhetorical question to the authors that really points out something we see as a flaw. We just can’t understand why the data regarding actual scans was not forthrightly included to bolster the claims. That it wasn’t makes us question the real adoption/use rates by customers.

    Your insights showing that adoption rate has stalled at about 30% of phones, is not very encouraging if the goal was mass-market adoption and regular/daily use.

    We manufacture grocery/retail products and simply wonder if the space used for a QR Code on a limited-space package might be better used for something like an in-store-coupon used upon purchase (or almost any promo).

    Any thoughts on why that line of thinking is warranted or unacceptable?

  9. Heidi Tolliver-Walker

    I think the data on venues is very interesting. But more than venue, I think that focusing on value to the end user is most important. Give people a REASON to scan the code — a clear and obvious benefit — and they’ll scan it.

    I realize that real estate is critical on product packaging, but I think the operative words are still “test, test, test.”

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that I just read some data from InfoTrends today that gives identical numbers to ExactTarget. Based on a poll of 400+ consumers, it found that 43% had scanned a mobile barcode or QR Code. Respondents were most commonly using them to learn about products/services, take advantage of discounts, and just to test them out.

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