With the novel coronavirus wreaking havoc, touch-free powered solutions with QR Codes have come to our rescue. QR Codes, once believed to be a long-dead relic of the early 2000s, have found a new life in the wake of the pandemic, kickstarting a touchless world.
China has used QR Codes as a way to filter visitors at checkpoints. Singapore is using QR Codes to ensure contactless visitor entry and to facilitate community-driven contact tracing.
WhatsApp, Google Chrome, and Instagram threw their hats into the QR Code ring making it even more popular amongst audiences of all sizes elevating the social media experience via touchless technology.
Across the globe, QR Codes are being used in contactless delivery, contactless pickup, and most importantly contactless payments.
Given the increase in demand for a safe way to keep consumers engaged, the QR Code market is expected to see a massive surge.
What are QR Codes?
Invented 2 decades ago, QR codes never became the revolutionary marketing strategy that businesses and marketers had hoped.
2017’s iOS 11 update changed that. Apple’s stealth update that allows QR codes to be scanned directly through the camera app is game-changing. Adding the QR code feature on the control setting was pure genius. Even the latest Android smartphones have made QR code scanning a native feature
While QR codes are extremely widespread, you may still want to consider some alternatives to the technology for various reasons. Here are some of the best QR code alternatives in 2021 –
NFC technology: Just like QR codes. NFC tags do not require an app to read. iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR can natively read third-party NFC tags. Older models of iPhone need an app. Most Android phones can also natively read an NFC tag.
Beacon technology: Beacons are the best way to deliver a fantastic native app experience. Once you come into the range of a beacon, the beacon is able to trigger a notification to your smartphone and wake up your beacon-aware app.
QR codes can also increase post-purchase engagement by allowing customers to re-order the product or link to a video tutorial on how to use the product effectively. QR codes can also act as effective lead magnets by getting consumers to sign up for loyalty plans or subscribing to the newsletter or getting valuable feedback.
QR codes are ubiquitous in China. In an attempt to penetrate the smartphone market in China, the iOS 11 update inadvertently also opened up new avenues for global markets. Inspired by China, South Korea has also witnessed a staggering increase in the number of QR codes scans. India and markets in the US have also adopted QR codes to make payments and make shopping a seamless experience.
And it doesn’t end there. Alipay’s partnership with digital wallets in Europe will also bring QR Code payments to the continent. Ghana, Russia, Sri Lanka have also announced a QR code payment technology which will be rolled out soon.
Digital menu QR Code for restaurants for a touch-free experience
The COVID-19 pandemic has propagated a safe, touch-free dining experience to limit contact from one another to curb the spread of the virus.
With several health organizations and CRA encouraging restaurants switching to disposable menus, QR Code menus are the perfect alternative. Disposable menus are not cost-effective, harsh on the environment, and time-consuming.
Digital menu QR Codes can be incorporated onto the tabletops of any restaurant or eatery so customers can simply scan the QR Code to view the menu, place their order, and enjoy their food promoting a safe touchless experience.
Some of the most popular eating joints that have switched to digital menu QR Codes are KFC, McDonald’s, and Curry Up.
Scanning QR codes is second nature for consumers
The popularity of QR codes can also be attributed to increased consumer awareness. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram have all come up with QR codes that allow users to follow accounts by scanning the code.
QR codes at the store to curate an experiential shopping experience
QR codes can be used at the store level to give shoppers experiential choices. Nike’s Flagship store called House of Innovation 000 uses QR codes all throughout the store to give Nike Plus Members with the Nike app a truly unique experience. Nike Plus Unlocks upon entering a store rewards members. The flagship store also has ‘Scan to Try’ wherein members can scan mannequins and have store assistants bring them the right size and color to the fitting rooms. If consumers don’t have the Nike app, they can also scan the QR codes on the walls to download the Nike app.
Nike Instant Checkout also uses codes to allow members to skip the long checkout line and checkout from the Nike App. These Instant Checkout stations are positioned throughout the store.
According to research by The Paper Worker, 1/3rd of consumer decision-making is purely based on a product’s packaging. Creating packaging that is appealing is even harder when you factor in millennials that always steer towards aesthetically pleasing and minimalistic design. QR codes are the answer to this struggle.
Since GMO products in the US require QR codes on the packaging that consumers can scan to learn more about the ingredients, it’s become a common practice to have QR codes on all products.
Gone are the days of black and white QR codes. QR codes can now be customized with logos, colors, and different shapes to attract consumers. This is very useful in that it allows consumers to know exactly what they’re scanning as well.
Businesses don’t need to keep swapping out QR codes to display different offers either. Static QR codes have given way to dynamic QR codes which explains why QR codes have been cropping up on digital billboards.
QR codes breathe new life into traditional marketing
Digital marketing gained traction for one very important reason: Tracking performance metrics. Something that was impossible with traditional forms of marketing. But, with QR codes, marketers can finally understand which marketing campaigns are performing well based on the number of scans.
Just like other traditional marketing channels, QR codes help analyze engagement and conversion rates when placed on direct mail. Consumers who have scanned the QR code can also be retargeted online on Google and Facebook. Inkit, an automated direct mail marketing company, has come up with a few guidelines on how you can maximize your ROI with QR codes on direct mail.
The cost of running a traditional marketing campaign can be quite steep without having any measurable results. That is why proximity marketing solutions such as NFC, beacons, and QR Codes have gained so much popularity. Not only are they cost-effective, but they are also extremely easy to deploy.
You can use Beaconstac’s QR code generator and add a logo to create your QR codes. Once you are done customizing it, you can either download it or embed it on your site. It’s easy. It’s free and there are unlimited scans. To track analytics and fine-tune campaigns in real-time, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial.
In April of 2020, Puma launched its LQD CELL Origin AR shoes. These shoes are covered in QR codes. When you scan the QR Codes using the Puma app, you can witness incredibly cool effects. You can make your LQD CELL explode, play games within the app and score points to get on the leaderboard.
IKEA’s direct mailers also include a QR code so that users can view the object in their space through the app.
If you have a marker, you can simply upload it as a logo to the QR code on the generator and create an AR experience.
But what if you’re not well-versed with markers? Seek is the answer. Seek delivers AR through a simple QR Code. You can have a Tesla in your driveway. A Fortnite dancer in your living room. Or, see how the Amazon Echo looks like in your kitchen.
Science and technology in healthcare is rapidly evolving. It isn’t very surprising if QR Codes were incorporated.
In 2021, QR Codes will be one of the biggest contributors to healthcare. Several hospitals have already deployed QR Codes in their algorithms.
QR Codes can be added to the patient’s wrist. With a single scan, the doctor/nurse in-charge can get the exact information about the patient; right from their particulars, medication prescribed, timings of medication, list of allergies, and easy checkout.
QR Codes for car dealerships
Anyone who has visited a car dealership must have noticed long sheets displaying all the vehicles’ information on a side window. Reading the list and maintaining it is tiresome.
QR Codes can help solve this woe. By placing QR Codes on the vehicle, sales representatives and customers can scan the QR Code to get information about the car.
By using dynamic QR Codes, details of any car can be updated regularly, depending on the need and demand of the market.
QR Codes are being implemented for shoppable marketing campaigns
With QR Codes gaining maximum popularity, major brands are incorporating them into their marketing campaigns to cater to their audience with interactive shoppable advertisements.
Burger King’s popular TV commercial advertising campaign during the pandemic included QR Codes, which could be scanned by users.
The QR Code Whopper giveaway consisted of three TV commercials showing a scannable floating QR Code around the TV screen. Upon scanning the QR Code, users were directed to a webpage offering coupons for a free Whopper by purchasing through its app.
Recently, for the MTV Video Music Awards 2020, Burger King upped its marketing campaign by introducing augmented reality through its QR Code TV campaign. The fast-food giant asked its users to scan the QR Code to activate the AR experience.
Snapchat and Facebook QR Codes have always been popular with their innovative and interactive QR Codes. Now, Instagram has joined the bandwagon too.
Instagram is bringing QR Codes to the app.
Previously called Nametag, Instagram has amplified the QR Codes boundaries. Users can now generate QR Codes that can be scanned from any smartphone. Users can also print their QR Codes to share so users can scan them to be directed to open their Instagram account easily.
The pandemic has witnessed several giants embrace the QR Code technology, including Instagram.
Reasons why QR Codes will trend in 2021
#1 Capable of storing large amounts of data
A QR Code is capable of storing upto 4296 characters, making them a viable tool for various industry verticals. A QR Code can be used for inventory management, mobile marketing, product packaging, contact tracing, and even for print advertising.
A QR Code can be linked to an image, video, landing page, and websites for various purposes.
With most smartphones having the ability to scan QR Codes without downloading a third-party application, anyone with a smartphone can scan a QR Code easily.
A QR Code when created in an appropriate size (minimum 2 cm x 2 cm), it can be scanned even from 3 feet away, making it easy to scan and use.
#3 Easy to troubleshoot
Generating QR Codes do not require innate technical knowledge or surplus installation of hardware and software. All you need is an online QR Code generator, choose a QR Code type, and create a QR Code!
#4 Cost effective
QR Codes are not as expensive as one might think. QR Codes are extremely cost effective and the fact that they can be used for any purpose, helps save a ton of money.
#5 Highly customizable
A QR Code can be customized to any need for any use. Traditional black and white QR Codes are so passe. A QR Code can be customized to change its background color, eyes, template, and even add a logo to seize the customer’s attention and align with your brand.
The QR code usage market in 2021
The QR code market is on a steep rise. According to Juniper Research, by 2022, 5.3 billion QR code coupons will be redeemed by smartphones and 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes.
Marketers can take a two-pronged approach to maximize their ROI with QR codes. One at a store level to display general offers or to leverage national holidays and the other at a product level to create interactive products.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do QR Codes expire?
QR Codes do not expire. If the information linked to the QR Code is outdated, the website or landing page will not show the content. If a static QR Code expires, it won’t work – meaning, it won’t direct you to a landing webpage, basically stalling the purpose of the QR Code.
Dynamic QR Codes also expire once the free trial period is over.
If dynamic QR Codes are purchased, they do not expire.
Are QR Codes making a comeback in 2021?
QR Codes are in more places than one can anticipate such as movie tickets, plane tickets, official documents, social media channels (Nametags and SnapCodes), and payment systems.
QR Codes were never out of the market to make a comeback, but they are having a rather powerful imprint on all kinds of businesses.
Do people use QR Codes in 2021?
The answer is yes.
Most smartphones come with a native QR Code scanner in their cameras. QR Codes are hugely popular amongst businesses and age groups of all kinds. Not just that, QR Codes are used to track campaigns, increase brand awareness, divulge a product’s detailed information, and use it to generate a high ROI.
Why are QR Codes more relevant in 2021?
A huge chunk of businesses and brands of all sizes are moving towards a technology-enabled market, QR Codes are more relevant than ever. The number of scans has been increasing marginally, thus turning everyone to QR Codes.
What is the future of QR Codes?
According to research by Juniper Research, the number of QR Code coupons scanned will reach 5.3 billion by 2022. The technology is anticipated to grow in multiple folds over the next couple of years. One of the key areas the QR Code technology will focus on is in-app usage and scanning ability. Other areas of growth are contactless payment system, transit and travel industry, healthcare, and marketing.
Do millennials use QR Codes?
Millennials, in fact, do use QR Codes. They use QR Codes a lot more than any other generation combined or individually.
Some of the ways millennials use QR Codes are –
Facebook Messenger Codes and Market QR Codes
Contactless Payment Systems – PayPal, Walmart, and Venmo
How many possible QR Codes exist?
There are different kinds of QR Codes that exists. Some of them are –
Model 1 QR Code
Micro QR Code
Will barcodes replace QR Codes?
No. Barcodes and QR Codes both have their own individuality. They are both used in different circumstances adhering to industry use-cases.
QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes, which is an upgrade of a basic barcode. Although barcodes and QR Codes both store information, QR Codes have more advantages over barcodes –
QR Code can hold any information within the square code. It can be used to link to a text, business card, multimedia, social media channels, and marketing campaigns.
QR Code can hold up to 7,089 characters allowing it to be more versatile than a barcode.
QR Codes resist damage. QR Codes can go through wear-and-tear and the agenda of the QR Code can be changed if dynamic QR Codes are used.
QR Codes can support multimedia content – video, audio, and even AR and VR.
Barcodes do not support any of the mentioned attributes. Thus, QR Codes will not be replaced by barcodes.
Want to run QR Code marketing campaigns for your business? Get in touch with Beaconstac, a comprehensive end-to-end proximity marketing solution
Sneh is a Content Marketing Manager at Beaconstac. When she’s not obsessing over customized QR Codes, she can be found fawning over dogs or bingeing on Netflix. To discuss content marketing or anything else under the sun, reach out to her on Twitter or LinkedIn.