QR codes in consumer habits

Since the covid, we could notice an increase in the number of QR codes. This is obvious in the restaurant industry but we also see them on the internet, in advertisements, on products... and they have upset some of our consumption habits. 

Thanks to their practicality, speed and playfulness, they were quickly adopted by consumers and companies. Their simplicity of use, explained by the integration of scanners in the cameras of new generation smartphones, has had a significant impact in the explosion of their presence in everyday life.

But what are these strange barcodes really, how do they work and what are they used for? 

Infographic: QR codes
Infographic: QR codes

What are QR codes and how do they work? 

The QR code is a two-dimensional barcode, allowing to store many data. It allows, once scanned, to quickly deliver information to its user, hence its name: Quick Response.

The first QR code appeared in 1994 and was developed by the Japanese company Denso Wave. 

Today, they can help to : 

  • Sending and receiving information 
  • Accessing wifi networks 
  • Refer to a download 
  • Pay

To access the data contained in the QR code, simply aim it with the camera of your smartphone. The information will instantly appear on the screen, most current smartphones being equipped with integrated scanners. 

If not, there are many applications available in the App Store and Google Play, such as I-nigma. 

QR codes in consumer habits.
Where do QR codes come from, how do they work and how can they be used?

Scanning habits (and the impact of covid on these habits) 

Today, about 1 in 5 French people use barcode or QR code scanning applications to obtain information about the products they consume. With the trend towards healthy and responsible consumption, these applications are becoming increasingly popular as they provide nutritional information and information on the origin of their purchases. 

One of the most used applications is called Yuka. With more than 21 million downloads since its launch and a monthly usage by 5.5 million users, it is the French leader in its field. Thanks to different criteria related to health and environment, it evaluates products in different categories such as food and cosmetics.

Scanning a product
Using the Yuka application.

In a study conducted by MobileIron poll in Europe in 2020 on the use of QR codes, 72% of respondents had scanned a QR code in the month before the study. Moreover, 5 out of 100 people usually scan during their shopping, a figure that will increase significantly over the next few years. QR codes are therefore present in everyday life but have not yet fully entered the consumer's purchasing process. 

In Japan, its country of origin, its use is much more common. In 2011, a Japanese person already scanned an average of 5 QR codes per day.

COVID has also been there and has changed certain customs. One example is the restaurant industry. Before the epidemic, very few restaurants used digital cards, which were visible through the use of a QR code. However, since then, almost all establishments have used them and the number of physical cards has even decreased!

Another consumer habit that has increased significantly in recent years is self-scanning at automatic checkouts in supermarkets. Today, more than 57% of supermarkets and hypermarkets are equipped with these self checkouts. The French have well integrated this innovation and it is today more than 40% of the consumers who use this tool regularly.

How can a QR code benefit brands? 

The advantage of the QR code is that it combines two methods: print (paper) and digital. By combining the two methods, companies can reach many more people. 

QR codes make posters interactive. Instead of knowing only the information and images contained in the poster, the viewer is immersed in the subject through videos, animations, details ... while having a first approach: the physical poster.

To evaluate the impact and success of an advertising campaign, we simply trace the code and analyse the usage statistics. We can then see the precise number of people who reacted to our content. 

QR codes can also be used by brands for storytelling. In the textile industry, for example, by integrating a URL into the QR code containing information on the origin of the material, the manufacture or the shipping of the products. Through anecdotes, brands can create a link with their audience so that they can identify themselves more easily. 

Storytelling is therefore a real asset to be integrated into your marketing strategy so that consumers are guided by their emotions and thus obtain their attachment.

Examples of the use of QR codes in marketing strategies

The use of QR codes by Coca-Cola.
Example of a marketing strategy using a QR code by a major brand

A nice example of the use of QR codes in an advertising campaign is the Coca-Cola brand with a design that integrates the QR code into the poster graphics. The advertisement will have more impact on its target audience because they will be interested and want to know more.

The gold medal for the most impressive use of QR codes goes to the video game company Cyagames. In 2021 in Shanghai, it used 1,500 drones to organise an aerial light show in the centre of the city to promote its new game "Princess Connect: Re Dive". 

The event culminated in the creation of a giant QR code in the sky using drones. When spectators scanned the QR code, they were redirected to the game's homepage to download it and start playing. 

The use of QR codes at Aroma Zone

In addition to advertising, QR codes can play a major role in the shop experience. French organic cosmetics company Aroma Zone recently opened its eighth physical shop in Toulouse. To simplify the customer journey and help them in their search, the brand displayed a QR code on the product labels with detailed information and corresponding customer reviews. According to the sales team, around 30% of the shop's customers use this tool to help them in their search.

Things to remember

QR codes are appearing more and more frequently in the retail sector. They allow brands to communicate differently with customers. Moreover, thanks to their ease of use on smartphones, they are highly appreciated by their users. However, they are not yet fully a reflex in the customer journey and can therefore be further exploited by brands as many uses are still possible.


Published by LA TEAM EKOO

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