QR code adoption

The adoption of QR codes is driven by a number of factors:

  • You need a smartphone to scan a qrcode. At the end of 2010 around one third of all US mobile phone users had a smartphone.
  • For many types of information that can be embedded in a QR code, the phone needs to be web enabled. There are users that only access the internet on their smartphone using WiFi.
  • Codes need to be scannable. This is partly determined by the code itself but the camera in the phone also plays a role. Older and cheaper phones tend to have cameras with a limited resolution or close-up capability. These may not be capable of scanning some codes.

Who scans QR codes?

According to a 2011 study by market research firm Comscore, about 6.2 percent of all US smartphone users use QR bar codes.

  • Just over 60 percent of these are male.
  • 53 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • 36 percent have a household income of $100k or more.
  • People are more likely to scan QR codes at home than at a retail store.
  • They also scan codes more from magazines and newspapers than from web sites or product packaging.

How many codes are scanned and for which types of products?

Another 2011 study, a magazine reader survey by GfK MRI Starch Advertising Research, documents the use of QR codes:

  • Magazine readers remember about as many adverts that contain QR/snap codes as they do regular ads. The codes do not seem to draw extra attention to the ads.
  • In the first eight months of 2011 around 5% of all magazine advertisements contained codes (up from 1.34% in the second half of 2010).
  •  About 5% of the magazine readers who read an ad with a QR or snap code actually scanned the code to get more information about the product or service being advertised.
  • The print ads that were scanned the most were about cars or car paraphernalia.

Factors that limit the use of QR codes

In August 2011 the VIGC, a Belgian innovation center, researched QR code readability. They tested dozens of codes in adverts, magazines and brochures, and found that a surprisingly large number of them could not be read by an average smart phone. Many QR codes were only readable with newer smart phones which have better focusing and zooming capabilities. “The new phones performed better, though even some of these didn’t find it easy to read the codes,” says Eddy Hagen from the VIGC. “Not being able to instantly read a QR code is a killer – people will only try it once before giving up.”

Another limiting factor is competition from other types of 2D codes. In a 2011 study by Nellymoser over 40,000 pages and 18,000 ads of the Top 100 US magazines were analyzed. QR codes were mainly used for advertising and accounted for 62% of all 2D codes found. Microsoft Tag codes were mainly used in editorial content and accounted for 30% of all codes. SnapTag and JagTag were used for respectively 4% and 3% of all tags.