Pandemic Causes Surge in QR Code Usage


QR Codes – What Are They?

QR Codes (also known as Quick Response Codes) were first launched in 1994 as a machine-readable optical label that contains information or other Quick Response action to be taken. QR codes consist of tiny squares arranged in a square grid on a solid background, which can be read by imaging devices such as a smartphones. Data associated with the code is extracted from patterns of the image and a course of action occurs. 

About a decade ago, QR codes began a breakthrough for business by connecting print and digital worlds. They enabled instant access to a website by simply by using a smartphone camera to take a picture of the code. They didn’t always work as intended and as a result, the concept was slow to catch on. With the improvement of smartphone cameras and software, QR codes can now be used for everything from launching restaurant menus on a smartphone to paying for your meal using your smartphone and a QR code on a printed ticket. This is much safer than sharing menus, pens and iPads with food servers and other patrons.

QR Codes – What Do They Do?

QR codes provide quick access to information and functions. A QR code can be a quick method of directing someone to your website or used for product tracking, item identification, time tracking, document management, marketing and credit card transaction processing. In terms of stalled growth, a 2011 study by comScore determined that 14 million mobile users (6.2% of all phone users) scanned a QR that year. By 2018 usage dropped to 9.76 million in a study by QR Tiger. By 2020, usage was back up to 11 million users who were driven largely by the pandemic.

QR Codes and Credit Card Processing 

As the familiarization of QR codes continues to take place, merchants now have the ability to generate, print or display a unique QR code as a means of accepting payment for a purchase at the store or any in-person transaction. 

Not only does this provide customers with a touch-free option to pay for purchases, but merchants can pivot to more contactless options. The pandemic’s pressing need for contactless payment options is expected to drive annual QR code-based transactions to exceed $2.7 trillion by 2025.

You can encourage your customers to use your QR codes and tie it to marketing efforts including codes that provide product details, a coupon or special offer, a YouTube video link, a social media page or special event details. Most importantly, it also enables data collection to drive customer loyalty. You can use a QR code to capture email addresses, cell phone numbers for text messages and even dates of birth – if you ask for that data.

Usage by Food & Beverage Industry

Restaurants and bars, in particular, have been blazing the trail when it comes to QR code usage, as the food and beverage industry has been negatively affected by both pandemic-driven social distancing as well as government stay-at-home orders. QR codes have proven to be invaluable tools for eateries, allowing patrons to view menus and pay for their meals with minimal staff interaction, thus reducing infection risk. These codes will likely remain a part of the food and beverage industry for the rest of our lives as they reduce the risk of viral infection among staff and customers. 

Top 3 Reasons for using a QR Code

  • Payments triggered from QR codes on printed statements that go directly to secure account-payment pages.
  • Discounts via coupons and print promotions (expected to reach 5.3 billion by 2022).
  • Product packaging to access more information (83% worldwide growth since 2018 with 8% annual growth in smart packaging going forward)

Top 3 Reasons You Should Use Them

  1. Increased access to mobile devices and high-speed internet. These are key drivers in expanding the appeal of QR codes. A study by Juniper Research indicates that 90% of the world’s population is now connected to high-speed internet. 
  2. Built-in barcode scanning on smartphones. The hassles of downloading an app disappeared for iPhone users in 2017 with the release of the iOS 11 update. Android 8 (OREO), 9 (Pie) and 10 followed with built-in scanning.
  3. Impact of COVID-19. As the world retreated to more touch-free, germ-eluding interactions in public, QR codes were a natural solution.

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