It’s been said that QR codes are yesterday’s technology. In reality, however, the black and white images were ahead of their time. Today, their usage is growing exponentially.
We learn why as we take a look at the state of QR codes in 2021.
QR Code Usage Statistics in 2021
Recent QR Code Usage Growth
Looking at Blue Bite’s cumulative data, we see just how much QR code usage has grown in recent years. The 94% growth in the number of interactions from 2018-2020 shows how much more often consumers are scanning QR codes.
It’s also interesting that the highest growth rate — 98% — comes from the number of interactions per object. Not only are consumers more accustomed to scanning QR codes generally, they are now more likely to scan a QR code more than once. This all adds to a 96% growth in total QR reach over the same 2018-2020 time period.
For Blue Bite-powered contextual experiences, this means consumers can be presented with different information depending on when they scan and how many times they’ve scanned, keeping them engaged and connected.
Smart Product Usage Statistics in 2021
Smart Product Growth in 2021
QR codes are one way to transform products and packaging into smart products, but they aren’t the only connecting technology. To complement our QR statistics, we also wanted to look at our numbers on the growth of a wider group of intelligent products. At Blue Bite, we most often work with QR and NFC to make products connected, though our platform is technology-agnostic.
Total smart product activations grew 63% and interactions increased 81% from 2018-2020, while the growth in the number of interactions per active object grew 48%. This amounted to total smart product reach rowing 92% over the same time period.
What’s Different About QR in 2021
A Touchless World
According to a 2020 MobileIron poll, 83% of respondents have scanned a QR code at least once, and 72% of people have scanned a QR code within the past month. And these numbers are currently rising.
Over half of respondents have seen an increase in QR code usage since the COVID pandemic started, and two-thirds agree that "QR codes make life easier in a touchless world."
Easy to Use
Part of the reason QR didn’t seem to catch on back around 2010, when it was first starting to be widely used, was the high barrier to entry. Not that many people had smartphones, and those that did often have to download a third party app to read the codes.
Fast-forward to 2020, and 81% of U.S. adults have smartphones. And nearly all of them read QR with no third party app required.
Apple Opens Native QR Reading
With the iOS11 update in 2017, all iPhones became able to read QR codes using the native camera application (rather than a third party app), a big move toward wider QR usage.
Foye’s report predicted the growth this spurs will continue: “Juniper therefore believes that QR codes could see a rapid increase in nations outside of Asia, as more consumers have streamlined access to them.”
Most know QR as the little black and white squares. This isn’t a bad thing, as it equates to high awareness for the codes. But the design options for QR extend far beyond those parameters and can incorporate additional colors and designs.
Brands now bring unique and creative designs to QR codes they place on their products and packaging that better fit their brand look.
Widespread New Uses Cases
Gamification of CPG Products
Intersnack added QR codes to their funny-frisch potato chip brand packaging that launched a personalized gamified experience that kept consumers engaged and coming back for more products.
QR Codes as a Payment Method
QR codes are already an extremely popular payment method in China, and is growing in popularity around the world.
"WeChat—which is predominantly used in China—made the nation obsessed with QR Codes in the last few years," according to Scanova. "The Chinese scan QR codes to make payments, get information, authenticate themselves, avail offers and practically every other use case."
36% have used QR codes as a payment method, with 53% saying they would use QR codes as a payment method in the future.
Extending Art Beyond Gallery Walls
Distinguished art gallery Lévy Gorvy has added NFC to a number of their exhibitions to extend them beyond the gallery walls and bring more information to their visitors.
For example, when the gallery launched the “Warhol Women” exhibition, QR codes on the information cards next to the artwork allowed consumers to experience the gallery in a new way when it launched a Spotify playlist specific to the gallery floor. The smart gallery saw an interaction rate of 16%, keeping visitors engaged even after they left, at which point the experience displayed different information offering additional information about the exhibition.
Mobile ticketing with QR codes now helps a variety of events eliminate the need for paper tickets. Consumers simply present their phone displaying the QR code to enter. Because QR codes are versatile, the same code can also be printed on a piece of paper or traditional ticket to grant entry.
QR isn’t just online. Retailers are using QR to bring entirely new and innovative business models to consumers.
One of the most well-known is Amazon Go, which is a particularly powerful use of QR. Consumers scan a QR code upon entering the store, and then any items they leave the store with are charged to their Amazon account automatically — no checkout required.
Juniper media points out that social media can have a large impact in QR usage.
“Juniper notes how social media can be used to rapidly engage consumers, messaging platforms, such as Snapchat which has over 173 million daily active users, have sought to utilize QR codes for this purpose,” writes the research company in their report “Coupons: 3 New Technologies Set to Energize Loyalty.”.
“Snapchat launched ‘Snapcodes’ via a January 2017 update, which enabled users to create personalized QR codes to link to any website. This feature could allow retailers to use social media as a tool to drive consumers to a particular web or product page, hence pushing offers directly to customers.”
A new study from Juniper Research has found that the number of QR code coupons redeemed via mobile will reach 5.3 billion by 2022, up from an estimated 1.3 billion in 2017.
QR in China
QR has taken off more quickly in China, leaving the rest of the world just now catching up.
“Juniper does however recognise the success of this technology in the Far East & China, with over 40% of QR coupon redemptions due to stem from this region by 2022.”
QR vs. NFC
Though they can be used for some of the many applications, QR is not always interchangeable with Near Field Communication (NFC). QR is not better or worse than NFC, but it can serve different use cases.
Blue Bite powers dynamic, personalized digital experiences that can be launched when customers scan QR, NFC or other connecting technologies. When we work with CPG brands that enable millions of objects on lower cost items, QR may be the best choice since they add no expense when they are printed on the packaging.
NFC, though, is uniquely suited for other uses. For example, we power authentication services for luxury brands by leveraging NFC tags embedded in products. Embedding the NFC makes it nearly impossible for would-be counterfeiters to access tags, bringing peace of mind to consumers that know they are purchasing an authentic item, whether it be from the brand, from a retailer or the secondhand market.
How Does a QR Code Work?
A Quick Response (QR) code is a matrix barcode (also known as a two-dimensional barcode) that can hold more information than traditional barcodes. Consumers scan the codes with their phones — usually using the camera app — to activate the information they contain.