QR Code Statistics

The Who, Why and Where of using QR or action codes for marketing

We’ve had a lot of interest in our previous posts on using QR codes for marketing which shows their potential, but I’ve had a nagging doubt in my mind about the response rates – no one seems to be sharing success stories. Either it’s working fantastically well for QR code vendors and brands and they’re keeping it close to their chests or they’re embarrassed.

Recent reports by Comscore, help with answering the response rate question and also gives an idea of the level of adoption amongst different demographics together with interesting data on how QR codes are being used, hence the title of this post.

This summary reviews consumer pull – adoption rates in the US, UK and Europe, but this is also driven by company push as they use QR codes more in their campaigns – we have a separate post on company QR code usage with examples to show the latest approaches.

QR code adoption: Response rates

European QR code usage rates

A September 2012 report from Comscore shows that the European usage of QR codes by smartphone users has doubled in 12 months. Product information rather than offers dominates.

Comscore data showed that in  June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S.,  6.2 percent of the total mobile audience scanned a QR code on their mobile device.

I don’t know what you think, but that’s an impressive proportion considering QR codes aren’t bundled on many Smartphones and not everyone has a Smartphone. Maybe it reflects whose on the Comscore panel…

QR code adoption: Who is using them?

The report also shows these demographics:

Source: VentureBeat

There’s a clear skew towards young (18-34) and male adopters, but I’m sure this will change with familiarity. The US postal service promotion offering direct mailers a 3% discount if they used QR codes was a smart move destined to increase QR code adoption by marketers and consumers.

QR code adoption: Why and Where are they used?

The latest data from the US from mobile specialist Nellymoser gives examples of action code usage in print magazines and the latest campaigns.

There is a clear message in the data about where QR codes are used which also suggests the why are they used. I’m turning to European data here, again from Comscore.

There is a clear at home/at work bias in use of QR codes. This suggests they are being used as a new form of “web response” to direct mail and suggests opportunities for tying in to personal URLs.

I had expected the outdoor usage to be higher with all the featuring of ads, so there is definitely a takeaway if you’re involved in direct mailing. The use in retail and supermarket is quite high too – down to bar code scanning rather than promotions I suspect, but interesting all the same. I’m not sure about QR code use in Restaurants though – suggestions please!

Finally, to the add to the picture and returning to the US Comscore data, we get to see where the QR code was located…

This fits with the European data, but introduces some new opportunities for use of barcodes – packaging, TV and on a website…. These are both quite high. I’m not sure about direct mail, that must be grouped under print?

QR code usage in Europe

This review has focused on latest usage in the US, but of course perceptions of usage does vary amongst audiences and it would be wrong to portray action codes as generating significant response. Market insight and consultancy company SKOPOS found in an evaluation on QR code adoption levels and perceptions in Europe that there was room for improvement in execution of QR code campaigns. Their conclusion “QR Codes: Quite Rubbish?!

The study found that twice as many German consumers are using QR codes that their UK counterparts. SKOPOS found that 24% of Germans compared to 12% of UK mobile phone users have ever used a QR code. SKOPOS found two main reasons for non-use and infrequent use/take-up across both markets. First and unsurprising to me is disappointing and poor experiences. Almost three-quarters (72%) of users in the UK not agreeing it was a good experience! Indeed, 1 in 4, 24% referred to it as a poor experience…

Darren Mark Noyce, Chief Consultant at SKOPOS advises how the experience can be improved:

“In our view then, a QR code should always be accompanied by a “performance-bond” (outcome guarantee) as concrete as possible. What will I get if I can this? QR codes are most likely to be used when consumers know exactly what information they will receive, such as in timetables, nutrition information and recipes for food that downloads or specific product information.

Scanning a mobile QR code should be a shortcut to valued content or offers, not an effort, nor a disappointment”.

I’m sure that many marketers (and consumers) who have experienced poor implementation of QR codes in campaigns will agree with this!

The other reason for infrequent use and limited takeup is lack of awareness combined with lack of capability with over 50% of respondents claiming not to have heard of them; possessing a phone with no capability (39%) or don’t know how to use them (30%).

  • http://www.smartlandproject.com Massimiliano M.

    The most inaspected result is the use at home/work that rappresent the 80% out of the total. An other interesting result is about the amount on clicks on poster and kiosks, this confirm that kiosk as a refernce for terriorial information. About restaurant, many menu have QR Code printed on it, at least in Italy…

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/about-dave-chaffey/ Dave Chaffey

      Trevor, Massimiliano, thanks for your anecdotes = yes the at home/work was what struck me – thought the data was useful for highlighting this. Just need to get more bundled on Smartphones, esp iPhones by default as Sam says.

  • Trevor

    Although I like to scan any QR codes I see out and about just to check out how they are being used..and theres some really good and some really poor ones. Most of my private QR code use comes from print to web interactions when reading magazines or other print media or when following app recommendations on websites and that tends to be in the home where there is wifi as the content is often media heavy or a download..

  • http://www.londoninternational.ac.uk katherine Bull

    Does anyone have any insight into usage of QVR codes in Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong please?

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/about-dave-chaffey/ Dave Chaffey

      You could try contacting Comscore direct Katherine, I just checked for Press release data for these countries and there isn’t any obvious.

      Saw this suggests high levels of adoption in HK?

      Could be worth asking on our Linked In Groups – there are a few University marketers there – seems like a good application

  • Sam L

    Hi Dave,

    They certainly seem to be more visible in the US and mainland Europe than the UK.

    I also would have expected outdoor use to be higher. Roll on getting the software bundled in phones!

    I like the restaurant idea, given the current trend in knowing the food provenance, this is a perfect opportunity to give information about your local suppliers etc.

    You could also list ingredients for people with various allergies.

    I also saw an article a while back that talked about QR codes on menus linking to videos of the chef making the dish.


    • http://www.smartinsights.com/about-dave-chaffey/ Dave Chaffey

      Hello Sam – yes interesting seeing the international differences – it’s a shame the data from Conscore for US/Europe is different, so hard to compare.

      I like your ideas for restaurants, it really shows the beauty of QR codes – you can be very creative in what you offer. I think the trick too is making it shareable, maybe will tie in with FourSquare, Facebook Locations and the like.

      The not sure about the link to video of chef – but could be useful for those silent couples you see in restaurants.

  • http://www.advertisingdatabase.com David Fales

    QR codes are intriguing.
    Restaurants: Diners can share a fav. restaurant with friends.Share an favorite entree listing with friends. Use to send your current location at rest, store, etc. without GPS.
    Bitly automatically creates QR code for any shortURL you create. Roll your own QR code to your LinkedIn profile, print on bus. cards, display on smartphone screen. Track usage! For a trade show, we create a set of unique QR codes, all leading to same URL landing pages. One code for our print ad in show program. One for signage in exhibit. One for sales lit. One for promo. Easy to track usage, and to tailor responses. Could be handy for any organization promoting any event, e.g. flyers sent home from school for Parents Night, etc.
    Not surprisingly, librarians have been early adopters. Organized instant distribution of information – and it’s silent.
    Tip: Putting less info in the code increases the scannability. Too much info creates ‘code cram’ (like it? I just invented it) i.e small complex patterns, harder to scan under less than optimum circumstances. Better to just encode a simple short URL ink to a web page, than cram all your business card info into the code itself.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/about-dave-chaffey/ Dave Chaffey

      Thanks for sharing David – some more good creative ideas there!

      For new edition of my book I’m going to have a QR code linking to up-to-date info on topic in the book, so looking forward to jumping on bandwagon.

      Useful to share about Bitly – it means there is a low barrier of entry to creating these – doesn’t need an external vendor – and any small business like a restaurant or a local library can use them which is cool.

      I’m planning to use http://goo.gl/ since they’re maybe more stable and also provide some tracking.

      Here is the SmartInsights one – looks quite complex though it’s just the URL – didn’t know about code-cram.


      • Steven

        Which website do you guys use to track your QR codes ? . I personaly use: http://hlq.me Any other good one?

    • http://www.britishhardwoods.co.uk Jo @ British Hardwoods

      I’ve been thinking about how/what the usefulness of QR codes would be and I’m impressed with all the examples you’ve given and especially the tip on ‘code cram’. There’s so much information on QR and what I would like is a more reputable guide on how best to use/implement them into marketing plans.

  • Lorna

    Dave – you mentioned the new edition of your book, do you have details of the book and when it is due to be published?

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/about-dave-chaffey/ Dave Chaffey

      Hi Lorna,

      Thanks for your interest in my books! Well, there is a new edition of my Ebusiness book just out – see right sidebar of

      I’m working on the 5th edition update to the Internet Marketing one now which the way publishing works means it will be published c June next year.

      We’ll be publishing paid-for Ebooks on Smart Insights before year end on more specialist topics like search, social, content marketing before the end of the year so that’s another option – these will be kept more up-to-date.


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  • http://johnhy.de John Hyde

    I’m also worried that QR codes are a fad – something that ad agencies pitch when they have nothing else left to try.

    So many lame campaigns with no clear thinking could kill this technology which does have some genuine uses.

    I would love to see some case studies of companies making money from this – this is the real test and not whether it scans or not.

    I’ve written up a quick checklist of points to cover: http://johnhy.de/qr/qr-code-checklist/

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  • Hiba Tam

    A very informative and well written article. Thanks! :)

  • http://www.peripheralvisioncopy.co.uk/ James Barry

    I’ve started using them in DM for clients so that readers can respond outside of office hours. Promising results so far… http://www.peripheralvisioncopy.co.uk/?p=320

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  • patrick

    QR in the restaurants – what about to have QR Code beside each meal in the menu ???

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      Good idea Patrick, but maybe “diners” just want to Instagram their meal instead!

  • @kanesimms

    Usage being higher at work and at home is kind of obvious given that people are working longer hours… You’re probably either at work or at home for 5 out of the 7 days, barring your commute. Also, the stats say that 70% of scans are to find out more product information, which could be attributed to a lot more of the millions of QR codes in these countries being created to offer more product information, and not necessarily down to the market wanting to receive more product information over coupons, for example.

    It is good however to see that adoption rates overall are rising.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      Thanks for your comments Kane, yes, usage of QR codes will be driven by pull from consumers and push from companies using them. I have added a link to the intro to another article showing how advertisers are using QR codes more.

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  • Ben

    I have found QR codes to be incredibly useful in large corporate environments. I work communications in a large energy company where everyone lives through their smartphones and Outlook calendars. QR codes can be generated to create a calendar event in Outlook with a single scan. It syncs with computer calendars so people can scan a code on a poster for an event, and bam – it’s on their schedule.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      That’s an interesting application of QR codes – probably better response than for consumers too.

  • Nick Hando

    would be great to get your feed back on grapevineQR ??

  • http://twitter.com/senall John Senall

    A bunch of you are onto the real truth: advertisers have not utilized them effectively at all in the US. Only 10 percent now use them– and half are still going to non-optimized sites, unfocused content, no call to measurable action. So if it doesn’t improve fast–targeted to the audiences in the graphs as early adopters–our own industry will jeopardize the huge potential of integrated digital and print communication in our country–which actually is not a QR code at all– but something far greater to impact commerce, education and communication.

  • Rob D

    Everyone loves to blame advertisers for not effectively using QR codes… well, that’s only partially true. The second a new marketing technology or resource emerges every business feels like they need to use it… facebook is a good example. Everyone thinks they need to have a page and get likes, but don’t know what to do with it or better yet it’s really not a good avenue for them to bother with. What makes QR a lot more difficult is you A. require a smart phone, then B. have to have a downloaded app, then C. need to recognize a 1×1″ bar code on an ad, then D. actually take the time to pull out the phone, load the app, scan the code, wait for content to load, etc. etc. etc. You are asking a TREMENDOUS amount from the user… especially because a QR is a giant flag screaming “shameless ad or promotion” which people are becoming more and more programmed to ignore. There needs to be serious incentive tied to the code otherwise you are wasting all efforts and will never achieve ROI.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      Hi Rob, yes, well put – it’s all about YOU the user and we are asking them to jump through four big hoops. So that value has to be seriously good – that’s what marketers get wrong or difficult for them to get right certainly.

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  • JGJ

    I think there is really just one factor dampening QR follow through rates: Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS don’t come with a QR reader by default.

    If they add a QR scanning function to their camera apps or as a utility, there will really be potential with QR codes.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      Exactly! I agree. Wonder why they haven’t wanted to do this? Maybe they want to find a way to monetise.

      • Henry

        Agree on the monetization. QR codes weren’t created by Apple. Soo …. (somewhat in jest) they probably toyed with how to make an “Apple Response” code and monetize through iTunes. They’re waiting for the right moment to launch it out to the world, but maybe QR codes have taken hold enough that the moment has passed. Could you imagine scannable Apples posted everywhere?

        • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

          I know your tongue is firmly in cheek Henry, but if Apple had created Apple Response codes it would have massively increased adoption and a standard app on each of the main OS would be a big improvement.

        • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

          I know your tongue is firmly in cheek Henry, but if Apple had created Apple Response codes it would have massively increased adoption and a standard app on each of the main OS would be a big improvement.

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  • Johnajax

    Yep– you are all right-on. But currently many many more people have downloaded their own QR app of choice and know what to do when they see a code–so that’s some progress. Apple likely won’t bother at this point. QR apps have proliferated. There is a battle going on actually by the augmented reality companies to get their own readers on phones. One is in bed with Ericsson, and the other is likely pushing hard on the other providers. Once they get on there, which they will, QR is pretty much done anyway. The AR reader apps scan just as easy, do regular linking to any url like a QR reader, but offer the more influential addition of also being able to scan to a 3D animation, rendering, website, app or engagement opportunity.

    • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your thoughts on the Augmented Reality Apps gaining popularity rather than the sole function QR code readers. Who is the battle between. Do you mean tools like Blippar or something else?

      • Johnajax

        Sorry for the extended vacation, Dave and a late response. Metaio owns Junaio (tied to Erikkson). HP owns Aurasma. Intel has a large share in Layar (ties to Nokia). But a source told me HP is having some internal issues with the whole AR thing they purchased and the future with them is unknown in that field. Just one person said that though.

        • http://www.smartinsights.com/ Dave Chaffey

          Thanks for the insider info John!

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  • Faiq

    hai i going to create new qr code generate web application. it will become suesses?

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