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QR codes came of age during the pandemic. Once considered a gimmick, consumers now appreciate the functional benefits of QR codes and are increasingly using them for engaging with brands, according to a new study from The Drum/YouGov. In fact, 75% of US respondents say they plan on using QR codes moving forward.

QR codes seemed like something of a quirky gimmick to many US consumers. At least until restaurants started taking our menus away during lockdown. All of a sudden, the value and benefit of simply pointing your camera at a code and receiving information became apparent. Now as much of the US begins to ease restrictions, it appears QR codes are here to stay for the long haul, per a new study from The Drum/YouGov.

Three-quarters of adults say that they would be willing to use more QR codes in the future, according to a poll of 1,100 US consumers conducted June 17 2021. This number rose to 82% among adults 18-44, but dipped to 64% of adults over 45. 

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“Since 1994, QR codes have made many efforts to become relevant without success,” says Tamara Alesi, YouGov’s sector head of media. “The pandemic changed that. For the first time, QR codes have a real purpose. In a world where ‘touchless’ became a mandate to protect consumer health, the value proposition of the QR code finally became clear to the world at large. Now consumers are using QR codes in everyday life, to view menus, pay restaurant bills, get more information on home and car sales, and more. I’d expect that consumer adoption to stick. More so, I think the trees and environment may be thanking QR codes too.”

The stage is set for scanning for ads, promos and playlists

Now that consumers have become more accustomed to using QR codes, they are beginning to appreciate what brands have to offer. In the last three months, 45% of US consumers have used a QR code related to a marketing, advertising or promotional offer.

More than half (54%) of consumers 18-29 have clicked on a marketing-related QR code, followed by 48% of consumers aged 30-44. This percentage declined to 44% among those 45-64 and 31% of consumers 65 and older.

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Marketers have taken note, says Matt Weinberg, co-founder and president, development and technology, Happy Cog. “We definitely see our clients asking more about QR codes. They’re starting to understand their flexibility: besides a website, you can also link to a Spotify playlist, a text message, a phone number, a VR/AR experience and more.”

Consumers say QR codes are here to stay, with nearly six in 10 (59%) of all respondents saying they will be a permanent part of using their phone in the future. Weinberg says this stat makes sense since “the problem used to be that consumers didn’t recognize or know how to engage with them. But now that ‘point your camera and click the notification’ is growing in knowledge, QR codes are becoming a fun and interesting way for companies to communicate”.

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