Does Anyone Actually Use QR Codes?

Considering the widespread adoption of QR codes by businesses, it’s surprising to learn how little smartphones users actually engage with these matrix barcodes found on numerous products and marketing materials. Brands attempting to reach out to their customers via QR codes continue to struggle with getting users to take the first step to even scan these codes. So, is the QR code dead?

The Problem with QR Codes

In a Gigaom article from 2015 , writer Geoffrey Goetz asserts, “The problem with QR codes is not that they don’t work. The problem that remains is that not everyone knows how to get them to work: how to scan or even create them.” Basically, the issues facing QR codes are due to errors from the companies creating these barcodes and the intended users.

Deloitte Global reports that 37% of people ages 55+ use smartphones. While this demographic is more technologically-savvy than previous generations, many of these users are just getting comfortable with so many new smartphone apps. A smartphone user older than 55 could see a QR code and not know how to scan it from their mobile device. Furthermore, this could be said of most smartphone users, regardless of age, due to iOS and Android not automatically including QR code scanners for their smartphones.

Where Are We Now?

In 2013, Marketing Land contributor Aaron Strout stated, “Even when a QR code is done right (link to mobile-optimized site, available connectivity, clear call-to-action, etc.), it’s hard to convince oneself that the minute it takes to pull out your phone, open up a scan-friendly app (assuming one had been downloaded already), scan the QR code and then wait for the experience to load, is worth it.”

So nearly six years after Strout’s article was published on Marketing Land’s website, Goetz at Gigaom is still discussing the improper implementation of and lack of user knowledge about scanning QR codes. Hasn’t enough time passed where marketers should fully comprehend the correct usage of QR codes? With QR codes everywhere, shouldn’t more people be interested in exploring what’s behind those barcodes? If you believe Strout from Marketing Land, none of it really matters because users just don’t think it’s worth the time or trouble to scan a QR code using their smartphones.

Are QR codes dead? Not necessarily. Companies such as Macy’s, Scandinavian Airlines and Tesco have found success using QR codes. Even though many smartphones users aren’t scanning every QR code they come across, there are still numerous opportunities for businesses to embrace this technology and reach a wider audience of new customers.

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