QR Codes in the US – How Fast is It Growing and Who is Using It?
Yathish Kumar TK
Last Updated: December 3, 2020
With the current state of COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, especially SMBs and MSMBs, that do not work on an online model are the most affected. Even as the pandemic slows down, and situations move towards normalcy, the fear of the virus returning will make it difficult for businesses to bounce back. QR Code, a contactless technology will be extremely instrumental in such situations.
Put simply, QR Codes are a call-to-action (or a hyperlink) added to the physical world. While China was the earliest adopter of QR Codes, the United States is catching up real soon. While the early 2010s marked the spread of QR Codes in the states, In 2020 and the coming decades businesses are witnessing incremental growth into QR code use cases.
In this blog, we will try to understand why QR codes are important for the United States of America and how it is useful for your business. I will provide a few detailed use cases of various industries within the US.
QR code usage in the United States and other countries
Its first use dates back to 1994 in Japan by a company called Denso Wave to track vehicles during manufacturing. QR codes stood as the best replacement for barcodes as it could store more information.
Many businesses took over this innovation and promoted its usage on a large scale. According to the statistics of 2011, only 6.2% of mobile users in the US scanned QR codes. The limited performance of this technology is attributed to the need for a QR Code scanner app. However, the resurgence of this technology is pinned to Apple and Google introducing QR scanning capabilities in a mobile camera.
A visit to China in 2014, convinced the CEO of Snapchat to add QR Codes to his app. He acquired a company called Scan and introduced something called Snapcodes on Snapchat. Next, we know Facebook and Spotify follow with messenger codes and Spotify codes. All these coupled with Apple’s decision to include QR Code scanning capabilities in phone cameras, led to the adoption of QR Codes in the United States.
Today, one won’t miss seeing a QR code anywhere. From eggs in supermarkets to our Amazon packages, to Walmart receipts, to the U.S. post office, to a massive billboard at Times Square, NewYork.
The balance between simplicity in usage and cost-effectiveness makes QR codes a profitable technology for businesses.
Best examples of QR code usage in the United States
After the year 2015, many small and medium-sized businesses have implemented QR codes into their marketing strategies and have experienced multifold success. QR codes have provided a trustworthy platform for businesses to communicate with their audience throughout the sales funnel – from acquiring new customers, to engaging with them and bringing them back.
Here are some ways in which American brands are using QR codes.
#1. QR code payments
QR code payments are gaining significant success in the United States. It is gaining traction among merchants due to its cost-effectiveness and ease-of-access. Understanding the power of rewards businesses encourage their customers with QR coupons.
Walmart was one of the early adopters of QR code payments. Using the Walmart Pay app, customers can scan and bag items via one of the store’s self-service registers and then pay.
To encourage customers for QR code payment, Walmart placed QR codes on the receipts. This acts as a cashback for customers to redeem at a later date at Walmart.
QR codes have been one of the favorite mediums for businesses to showcase their product information. This also helps businesses garner consumer data at well-performing locations. This data can further be used in creating location-targeted campaigns.
The US Grocery Manufacturing Associative has taken an initiative to include Smart Labels on its products. 30 Fortune 500 companies are committed to using SmartLabels including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Hershey, Kellogg Co., General Mills, Bruce Foods Corp and more. A QR Code is printed on the items which when scanned redirects to a webpage that has information on nutrition, ingredients, allergens, and certifications.
#3. Improving customer experience through QR codes
Retail stores across the country have upped their game by improving their customer experiences. QR code interactions have helped retail owners gauge activity within the premises of their store. It also helped marketers build campaigns of the acquired data.
To improve customer experience Zippin, a San Francisco based convenience store, a competitor of Amazon Go, developed an AI-driven cashier-less checkout service. They are achieving this feat by having QR codes to scan at check-in points. After their shopping, customers receive the receipt via email.
Best Buy, an online store has created a new model through which customers can scan QR codes in stores to compare the scanned item with its other similar products. This helps consumers prioritize features that matter most. Best Buy believes that by being transparent with product information, their customers can make better buying decisions.
Retail stores need to make an impact even outside their stores to reach a wider audience. Peapod, an online grocer based out of Chicago, has taken up a unique marketing approach to promoting themselves through QR codes. They created virtual billboards with QR codes in a Chicago public transportation station. When customers scan these QR codes Peapod app guides them to their app where they can place their orders. The groceries get delivered within a day to the customers’ home. Retail stores in this way can set up virtual stores throughout the city.
#4. Using QR codes and augmented reality to combine offline and online promotions
With enhanced emphasis on experience in offline stores, businesses are now using technologies like augmented reality to engage with their customers. An augmented reality QR code or an AR code can be placed on any surface like phones, computer screens, papers, and flyers. When you scan an AR code it opens a URL to some AR.js content. Your camera will detect the marker within the AR code and display 3D content. This makes offline marketing to online marketing more engaging.
Businesses can combine offline and online marketing just like Meredith Corp., a media conglomerate based in Des Moines, Iowa did. Meredith placed augmented reality QR codes in some of the top magazines. Customers were able to unlock AR features after scanning respective QR codes. For example, Meredith pitched an AR beauty try-on app that customers can avail after scanning the QR code on the magazine.
Other QR code trends that are catching up in the United States
#1. Improving In-store experience
Nike’s Flagship Stores have set-up QR codes all over their stores to improve customer experience. They have set up the ‘Scan to try’ feature on mannequins. When the QR code is scanned a store assistant provides right size clothing to the fitting room for customers.
#2. Advancements in gaming
Animal Crossing: New horizons, a social simulation video game series created by Nintendo, is also using QR codes within their games to accomplish tasks. Players need to scan a QR code to avail custom costume designs. A QR code scanner from the Nintendo app scans and saves the designs which can be further used in the game.
QR codes placed on books in libraries can help students get the necessary information about the books. A popular use for QR codes is adding multimedia content to physical educational material. Any additional content can be accessed through videos.
The below example is one of my favorites where the elements of the periodic table have been replaced with QR codes. Each code links to a YouTube video discussing the element in question.
Scanning QR Codes needs no education now. It is an intuitive and natural behavior. According to a recent survey by Statista suggests that in the US alone an estimated 11 million households will scan a QR Code, this is a huge jump from the 6.2% scan rate in 2011. Hence, this is a huge opportunity for US marketers and businesses to bank upon.
Most SMEs and MSMEs are in search of smart investments that help revive their positions in the market. Implementing QR codes can minimize the risk and help achieve practical goals. Your products marketed through QR codes can be an example for other businesses in the United States to follow during pandemic times.
The Chinese city of Hangzhou constructed QR code checkpoints across the city. People have to scan these QR codes to get a one-time color code pass to check the health status of COVID-19. The risk will be shown through color codes of red, yellow and green. QR codes are helping thousands of people using such contactless services to stop the coronavirus from spreading. This clearly signifies that QR codes could still become hugely beneficial not only in marketing but in other areas as well.
The more open we are towards innovating the usage of QR codes the more benefits we can reap. By innovating around such resources is how we can overcome these tough conditions. QR codes have always found new mediums to expand and diversify its usage. The time has come for you to join the QR code revolution in the United States.
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