While QR (“Quick Response”) Codes have long been popular in Japan and Europe, the findings of a new study suggest that these matrix barcodes may finally be catching on in the US. The study, conducted by comScore, tracked the QR code usage of over 14,000 Americans, and found that 6.2% of their sample scanned a QR code during the month of June; extrapolated to the total number of mobile phone users in the United States, this means that roughly 14 million Americans are scanning QR Codes every month. According to comScore, the average QR scanner is male (60.5% of their QR-scanning audience), aged somewhere between 18 and 34 (53.4%) and wealthy (with 36.1% having a household income of $100k or higher). Nearly half of the scanned QR codes appeared in newspapers or magazines, followed by product packaging (35.3 percent), websites viewed on PCs (27.4%), and posters/flyers/kiosks (23.5%).
Interestingly, a similar study conducted in Canada earlier this year found that the majority of Canadian QR scanners are women (64% of their survey audience), aged 35-44 years old (25%), and are almost exclusively accessing digital—not print-based—QR codes (with PC and TV-based scans accounting for 77% of all QR-scanning activity).
Sure, the American and Canadian media and technology markets aren’t identical, and there are lots of small cultural, social, and economic differences that could account for the marked disparity between the findings of the two studies. What seems most likely, however, is that the discrepancies between the studies’ findings are the result of differing target demographics in their respective countries; Canadian QR marketers are primarily advertising through digital means to reach a female audience, and American QR marketers are primarily advertising through print media to reach a male audience.
The lesson to be learned here is that, no matter what type of business you’re in, or the demographics of your customer base, QR codes are beginning to achieve widespread adoption and use in North America, and it’s worth thinking about how to integrate them into your advertising and marketing campaigns. For businesses, part of QR codes’ appeal is that they can be used to link to any number of things—company websites, coupons, mobile payments, surveys, etc.—which is also what makes them appeal to consumers, as QR codes can serve as an “easter egg” of sorts. If they’re integrated into existing advertising collateral, the cost of QR codes is negligible, but the rewards can be significant, such as driving traffic from print ads to company websites, or using location-specific QR codes on posters or kiosks to determine where customers are encountering your advertising.
QR codes appear on track to move out of the “early-adopter” phase, and into common usage and understanding. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about how QR codes can both increase your company’s public profile and provide valuable information about your customers’ demographics and behavior.