The QR code, at the most basic level a barcode used in categories ranging from automotive manufacturing to ordering food, has emerged as a late bloomer to drastically impact the market nearly 30 years after its creation.
While QR codes have seen substantial use in global markets since their creation, US users are largely unfamiliar with the tech, or associate it with clumsy mid-2000s experiences that required a special reader to activate. However, as devices evolved to include native QR readers and the experiences accessed via QR codes improved, brands and consumers alike have begun to adopt the tech as a valuable tool. With the eruption of contactless service in 2020, the momentum for QR codes grew exponentially.
Looking to 2022, the QR code stands to become a Cinderella story of the tech world, emerging from antiquated footnote status to a cool kid on the block. Here are a few of the many ways consumers may encounter the QR code.
Most restaurant patrons used QR codes to view menus in the past year. With venues aiming to decrease the number of shared surfaces and touch points, QR codes provide an easy, sustainable, and budget friendly way to keep patrons safe. According to the National Restaurant Association, half of full service restaurants had added QR code menus in 2020. In addition to convenience and hygiene, digital assets also offer savings to venues in the form of easily updated menus and a reduction in the need for printed materials.
With the addition of QR code capabilities to platforms like PayPal and Square, the adoption of new ordering and payment methods across product verticals is quickly expanding. Brands such as Nike, FootLocker and CVS are few of the many who have taken the lead on this form of contactless service.
The fact that QR codes can be deployed across a wide variety of mediums, both physical and digital, makes them a great asset in extending the interaction between a consumer and a brand campaign. Particularly for out of home (OOH) advertisements, QR codes allow consumers to access information directly related to the product, service, or promotion of a given advertisement, removing a point of friction between discovery and exploration. A clothing brand may drive viewers to product pages for the items included in a specific outfit, while a restaurant chain could display a map of locations close to the advertisement.
The use of QR codes also provides brands at least in part with an additional data point that OOH advertising has long struggled with - how many and what actions were taken as a result of this ad? Billboards and signage may be seen by thousands, but without a trackable action to be taken it is difficult to determine the ROI of a given asset. Interactions with QR codes can be tracked and evaluated for the value that an advertisement provides to the brand. Further, while QR codes can’t track to a specific person, they can be tracked to a device, allowing brands to alter an experience depending on if and how it has been used to previously interact with the brand.
Similar to how QR codes remove friction for product discovery and exploration, QR codes can help brands, and particularly service based businesses, collect reviews that bolster search ratings and customer confidence. Posting a QR code that leads a visitor to the desired review location makes for a seamless, in-the-moment experience as well as collects reviews in one location, as opposed to the user choosing to leave a review on one of many platforms available.
While QR codes can be used for many innovative and unique applications, there are times when their simplest functionality is exactly what a brand needs. Loaded with product or display information, a QR code deployed in stores can call up product dimensions, pricing, and even additional parts and pieces that may be needed to properly use a product. Retailers such as nurseries may deploy QR codes to provide information such as light, water, and soil needs for specific plants, as well as if they are pet and child safe.
In non-retail settings, QR codes have been deployed to provide additional information around museum exhibits, zoo animals, and amusement parks, giving the visitor easy access to relevant information.
Another technology that has received significant attention over the last year for changing how consumers interact with brands is augmented reality. Paired together, QR codes and AR can be used to deliver immersive experiences that serve a variety of purposes in enhancing brand touch points.
The addition of native QR code readers in phones opened the door for greater adoption of QR codes, however it is WebAR that is the catalyst for the relationship between AR and QR codes. With WebAR, users can launch an augmented reality experience from their device’s browser; no need for an additional app. Brands have already started to leverage this technology, from in store activations, to advertising campaigns to enhance ecommerce experiences.
Miller Lite thrilled consumers in 2019 with their AR enabled St. Patrick’s Day cans, which included the ability to explore an immersive St. Patrick’s Day world and a coin toss game. Campaign results showed that 93% of users completed the portal tour, while the coin toss game had a 75% reengagement rate. Perhaps most importantly, Miller Lite saw a 25% lift in favorability against the traditionally dominant St, Patrick’s Day brands.
For retailers and etailers, the combination of AR and QR codes promises a better shopping experience for consumers, with proven sales and satisfaction results. Shopify found that products enabled with AR had 94% higher conversion rates than those without. Additional studies have found that 40% of consumers would spend more for products they can experience in AR and 71% said they would shop more frequently with retailers who offered AR experiences.
Whether they are shopping in-store or online, the ability to bring products to life via AR during the purchase decision process is an important asset for consumers and brands. QR codes have proven to be an easily deployed and understood activation tool for these experiences, and will continue to enhance the brand experience across a wide range of product categories.