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eCommerce Tips & Trends

How to Use QR Codes in 2021: Pros & Cons

QR codes have been buzzed about for years, but adoption has been slow. Will 2021 be a breakout year. In this post, we share the pros and cons of using QR codes.
How to Use QR Codes in 2021: Pros & Cons
Jules

By Jules

 

December 28, 2020

For years QR codes have been hotly debated in the marketing industry. Are they dead? Do they work? What’s their purpose? And now, are they making a comeback? The short answer is yes!

But how can eCommerce merchants take advantage of QR codes to grow their business? In this article, we help you decipher what QR codes are, why they are becoming popular once again, and how you can strategically use them in 2020.

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Photo by Proxyclick Visitor Management System / Unsplash

What is a QR Code?

Let's kick this off by answering the big question: what is a QR code? A QR code stands for Quick Response code. It is a scannable 2D matrix barcode that triggers specific actions such as website visits, social media profiles, digital payments, app downloads, among others to deliver connected experiences.

But how does a QR code work? It works in a pretty simple way. You only need to align your phone’s camera with the scannable 2D matrix barcode. After that, a specific action like a website visit will be triggered, and you will be directed to the specific web page without the need to type a thing.

In 2011 and 2012 when smartphones were first gaining traction, you would see QR codes everywhere, but their usage didn't really take off for some reasons. Some of the common ones include:

  • Usage difficulties: Back then, their usage was riddled with issues, especially for marketers. As a result, people didn't understand how to use a QR code. They would prompt an action that didn't drive any value or send a user to an irrelevant web page. Such confusion contributed largely to their downfall.
  • Slow internet speed: Slow smartphone internet speeds made their usage even more difficult and prevented their successful execution.
  • Need for a third-party app: The iPhone, the popular smartphone of the time, didn't support QR code scanning. Users were required to download a third-party app from the play store to scan them. This was a huge barrier to entry for many people.
  • The iPhone took over as the popular smartphone: As we have mentioned, the iPhone didn't support QR code scanning. But it continued to dominate the market as the top smartphone. This made brands stop seeing the potential in QR codes.
  • Othe tech innovations: Other innovations such as near-field communication(NFC) and Bluetooth took over, dampening the usage of QR codes.
Related: Guide to Digital Wallets

Recently, QR codes have started emerging once again. Their comeback is even somehow unnoticed because they now fit seamlessly with our day-to-day interactions such that no one thinks of them as being out of place as they were in 2011.

That said, there are several reasons why QR codes are making a comeback and gaining popularity in 2020. Let us get up close with the top ones.

  • COVID-19: The coronavirus disease has forced brands to figure out how to use QR codes. From shipping companies to restaurants and physical stores, there is a need to remain as contactless as possible in the post-covid world. This has made QR codes shine.
  • The technology has made QR codes easier to use: Our devices have become smarter! Both Apple and Android smartphones are bundled with cameras and impeccable internet speeds making them act as instant QR scanners. Today, many consumers own smartphones that can scan and execute QR codes seamlessly without the need to download a third-party app.
  • eCommerce and tech giants are leading the QR code comeback: eCommerce and tech giants in the US and China are leading the pack in helping others realize QR code's huge potential. Think of Amazon's SmileCode, SnapChat's Snapcode, and Alibaba's Alipay Code.
  • Refinement in design: Some tech companies are refining the QR code system by creating their own branded alternatives to use in-app. This movement from the unloved, maze-like square matrix design is contributing to the popularity of QR codes in 2020. Instagram's Nametags and Spotify Codes are good trendsetters in this category.
  • Affordability: QR codes have become a highly affordable solution for businesses, organizations, and brands that wish to transform their print communications into a more connected digital experience. Today, it is possible to access a free or inexpensive QR code generator software, and print customized QR codes on virtually anything without breaking the bank.
  • Versatility: As we have mentioned above, QR codes can be printed on virtually anything. Businesses can transform their door drop, catalog, menu, brochure, letter, profile, and statement into QR codes. These can then be used to trigger a variety of activations such as linking visitors to product pages, a coupon, company app, video content, web pages, interactive games & quizzes, among others.

Important QR code Statistics

Photo by Proxyclick Visitor Management System / Unsplash

As you can see, many brands are increasingly realizing the potential in QR codes and are using them to their advantage to power their businesses.

If you are not yet convinced that QR codes might become the next big thing when it comes to connecting the real world and the digital one, here are some stats that may make you change your mind and start A/B testing them in your eCommerce store.

  • Juniper Research predicts that over 5.3 million QR code coupons will be redeemed by 2023, and over 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes by the same year.
  • According to the Global Web Index, the number of people in Europe and the US who scanned a QR code in 2015 through 2018 has doubled.
  • Millennials account for 45% of QR code users, according to Web Index
  • According to Adobe, 26% of people in the UK have used their mobile devices to scan a QR code.
  • 15-24-year-olds are among the top QR code scanners. According to IPA TouchPoints 2019 survey, 1 in 3 have scanned a QR code with a mobile phone or used an app like Blippar to acquire more information about a product or service.

8 Great Examples of QR code Usage

QR codes are being used in many ways in 2020. From sending people to product pages to tracking down coronavirus contacts in China, there is no shortage of ways through which governments and brands are using QR codes.

Here are great examples of QR code usage:

  • Fight coronavirus: China is leading the pack with the use of QR codes in fighting COVID-19. As part of the track and trace program, the government has partnered with Alibaba, WebChat & Tencent to closely monitor people's movements. A colored QR code relating to one's health status is assigned via a smartphone with information about their ability to leave home, go to work, access public places, and use public transport, among others.
  • Movie, concert, or plane tickets: QR codes have brought a lot of conveniences when it comes to buying a movie, concert, or plane tickets. Instead of having to print out your documents, a QR code is sent to your phone.
  • SnapCodes: You can instantly add a friend on Snapchat by simply scanning their user profile image on the App's camera.
  • Amazon's SmileCode: You can use the SmileCode to direct customers to your product pages on your Amazon store.
  • Alibaba's Alipay Code: Alipay code is widely used in china to power digital payments.
  • Instagram's Nametags: They direct users to a specific profile.
  • WhatsApp: A new feature in the app will allow users to add contacts by scanning a unique QR code.
  • Hotels: Instead of menus in hotels, eateries, and restaurants, all you need is simply scan a QR code to bring up the menu on your phone.
  • Museums: There are no leaflets in museums anymore. All you need is to hover your smartphone's camera over a QR code in every room to listen or read about the history.

How to Strategically Use Them in 2020?

QR codes are making a comeback in the marketing world as well. This has opened up possibilities for businesses to feature QR codes in their marketing campaigns.

Due to their dynamic nature, eCommerce retailers and marketers can strategically incorporate them into their ad creative to drive users down the sales funnel and fulfill a variety of objectives.

Here is how you can strategically use QR code in your eCommerce store:

  • Link to a product page, landing page, or website
  • Direct user to your social media profile or youtube channel
  • Direct users to view your business location on Google maps
  • Send special messages or offers to your customers
  • Send text or email messages
  • Drive brand awareness and engagement
  • Track the performance of your campaigns on the go
  • Boost sales and drive registrations
  • Providing a seamless online/offline customer experience

Downfall of QR codes: are they dead in 2020?

Although there are several reasons that led to the downfall of QR codes in 2011, they have made a comeback in 2020, and they are alive and well.

Part of the reason why they never took off back then is the fact that the technology wasn't ready to support their use. Users needed to download a third-party app to scan QR codes, and had to bear the inconvenience of slow internet speeds to execute them on their phones.

In 2020, our smartphone cameras can scan and execute QR codes without the need to download any third-party apps. Add that to the need to remain as contactless as possible due to the covid-19 pandemic, and you will see why QR codes are having a moment in 2020! Businesses and consumers alike are beginning to realize their convenience and potential.

Should You Start Using QR codes?

There is no doubt that QR codes are making a quiet comeback in the digital advertising scene. Stats show that their usage is only going to increase going forward. Therefore, eCommerce retailers and marketers need to keep an eye on this unfolding trend and figure out how to use QR codes in their business.

Without a doubt, QR codes can be a helpful tool to help you better engage with your audience, enhance customer experience, boost sales, and drive value in your business. Why not go ahead and integrate them into your ad campaigns!

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