QR Codes: 26 MUST-HAVE Facts [Data & Charts]

How to use a qr code

With increased hype and discussions, QR code usage has moved past its early adopter phase in the US. While QR codes are popping up with greater frequency on marketing materials, ads and other surfaces, much of the population still doesn’t know what they are or how to use them. (Here are twelve examples of QR codes in use.) Marketers want to know what’s the current penetration of the market that can use them and what are the usage forecasts in order to determine whether QR codes should be integrated into new marketing materials.  To help, here are 26 QR code data points complete with charts and analysis.

Background: Smartphone drives QR code usage

1. US Smartphone Penetration (via The Nielsen Company)

Since QR code usage depends on having a smartphone with a QR code reader installed, it’s critical to examine US smartphone penetration to understand and forecast QR code usage. An even more important indicator is the smartphone penetration for recent purchasers since many of these phones come with QR code readers installed. ( Here are more US Mobile Marketing facts.)

2. How US smartphone adoption compares (via comScore MobiLens)

To put US smartphone adoption in context, it lags the Spain, Italy and the UK according to comScore MobiLens.

3. How global mobile barcode usage is growing  (4Q2010)

Global mobile barcode usage data includes both 1D  and 2D codes (e.g. QR Codes) and gives an indication of overall growth.

Notes on reporting methodology: To better understand this chart, here’s some background on the methodology. According to 3GVision, these reports are based on the total number of QRcode, Datamatrix and UPC/EAN scans as recorded by the i-nigma system during the period. Due to i-nigma’s worldwide prominence, these results are considered to be an indicator of global mobile barcode activity. Japanese mobile barcode activity, known to be ahead in popularity and usage, was excluded.

4. Top 10 countries for mobile barcode usage (excluding Japan) Q4/2010

  1. United States
  2. Italy
  3. Germany
  4. Hong Kong
  5. France
  6. Canada
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Netherlands
  9. Thailand
  10. South Korea

There was significant growth in mobile bar code usage from 3Q2010 to 4Q2010 across many countries. For the first time, the US was the largest country in terms of absolute numbers of scans. It’s important to note that, while smartphone penetration is about 30% in the US, it’s population size makes this large relative to other countries.

5. Top 5 growing countries for mobile barcode usage  (excluding Japan) 4Q2010 versus 3Q2010

  1. Canada
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Germany
  4. Norway
  5. South Korea

6. US barcode usage

Barcode usage varies by type of smartphone. Based on Compete’s results, Androids lead the way.

Mobile Barcode usage by mobile operating system via Compete

7. QR Code scanning growth

QR code scanning grew significantly in North America in 4Q2010, largely attributable to holiday shopping based on according to Mobio Identity Systems, Inc.’s data accumulated from consumer QR code scans in North America.

8. 1D and 2D barcode breakout

While the following ScanLife research taken from 4Q2010 doesn’t show its scale, it does reveal the relative difference between the use of 1D and 2D (QR codes) and shows that use of both formats is growing.  This data is useful since most of barcode scanning data co-mingles information about the two different types of codes. Higher scanning behavior was closely correlated with the holiday season when the increased use of 1D codes probably represents consumers scanning 1D UPC codes on product packaging.

9. US QR Code visibility

About two-thirds of US respondents have seen a QR code. Interestingly, this applies equally for men and women based on MGH‘s QR Code Usage research in February 2011.

10. US QR Code usage

Of those surveyed, about half who saw a QR code, used it according to the MGH study.

11. US QR Code usage motivation

Respondents in the MGH study who had used a QR code were clearly looking for a deal or coupon or more product information. Combine this with the fact that shoppers tend to use their mobile phone when shopping.

12. Multiple QR code scanning behavior

Roughly 62% of respondents had scanned a QR code two or more times based on Mobio Identity Systems, Inc.’s data.

13. Where US consumers scan QR codes

US consumers scan QR codes on a variety of different media, where television and social media account for the lion’s share of this behavior, via Mobio Identity Systems, Inc.’s data. Roughly, 3 out of five scan from social media.

14. Why US consumers scan QR Codes

If you’re planning to add QR codes to your marketing, it’s important to consider what motivates prospects and customers to snap your QR code. Getting a discount or deal, entering a contest, getting additional product information or making a purchase are top on the list. Bear in mind that this is consistent with other social media and mobile actions. Therefore, while passersby need to understand that they’re looking at a QR code and how to use it, these hurdles can be overcome and are easily explained to prospects.

15. Are US firms using QR code US usage?

QR codes are not limited to small businesses. 22% of the Fortune 50 use QR codes according to 2010 Burston-Marseller research.

16. QR Code usage by age.

QR code usage is greatest among individuals between 25 and 54 years of age based on Mobio Identity Systems, Inc.’s data accumulated from consumer QR code scans in North America. ScanLife’s data show that scanning increased 25% among the 35-54 age group in the US since their last report reinforcing the idea that QR Codes are moving past the early adoption phase.

17. US QR Code usage by gender

About two-thirds of scans are by women, often heads of households – based on Mobio Identity Systems, Inc.’s QR scan data in North America. They’re interested in QR code scanning to get product information, enter contests and make smartphone purchases. Further. ScanLife’s data show that scanning increased 13% among US females. 

QR code usage among teens

UK based Dubit Research questioned 1,000 teens aged between 11-18 years of age with an equal balance between gender and age for their Direct to Youth Digital Omnibus. Here are the salient findings related to QR codes. (Note: no charts are available for Dubit data.)

18. Lack of QR Code software awareness

72% of teens surveyed either didn’t have or weren’t aware that they had the software to read QR codes.

19. Lack knowledge of QR Codes

When shown a QR code image, only 43% of respondents correctly identified that it could be read by a mobile phone and 19% admitted not knowing what it was.

20. 1/3 Can identify QR Code

33% per cent of those questioned correctly identified the image as a QR code. 22% believed the image was called an RFID tag and 12% labeled it as an infograph showing that education is needed in this mobile-savvy market to increase QR code awareness and usage.

21. Roughly one in five teens have used a QR Code

19% of teens have used software to read QR codes and 74% of users thought it was worth the effort.

QR Code adoption

22. QR Code trends

While QR codes are past their infancy in the US, they’ve entered a high growth phase that’s causing them to attract a lot of attention, as shown by the Google Trends chart.

23. QR Code adoption cycle

This is supported by an interesting adaption of Gartner’s Hype Cycle chart by Roger of the 2D Code. Looking at this chart, you’ll see that the US and Europe are on the upswing of publicity. This trend is consistent with the Google Trends chart.

The future of QR codes

To understand how QR Codes will be used as the market matures, let’s examine the Japanese market, which is more mature in terms of QR code usage, to get marketing insights. Based on NetAsia Research June 2009 study via 2D Code,

24. Have the ability to access QR Codes

76% of the Japanese surveyed know they have the ability to access QR Codes. This means that roughly three quarters of those surveyed know what a QR code is when they see one, understand how to use it, and have a smartphone with a QR code reader installed.

25. Average Japanese QR code scans per week

Although individual usage varies, the average scans per week for those surveyed was 1.24. To put this rate in context, consider the percentage of readers who click-through on online advertising or use the URLs plastered on billboards, ads and packaging. Since viewers can’t discern the information contained in a QR code the same way that they can with a URL, scanning is probably higher.

26. Top 3 reasons Japanese scan QR Codes

Among the top reasons for scanning are to use a coupon (31.6%), to get a special promotion (30.9%), and to obtain more product information (22.7%). Not surprising, these reasons are similar to those that U.S. consumers give for following a brand on social media platforms.

Remember when incorporating QR codes into your next marketing and/or communications project, it’s important to supply viewers with a call-to-action and information regarding how to download a QR code reader and use the QR code since it’s still early days.

Have you scanned a QR code? If so, what were your opinions about the experience? Have you considered integrating QR codes into your marketing plans? If so what do you plan to do and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Here are some related columns that you may find of interest.

Photo credit: CoCreatr via Flickr

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16 Responses to QR Codes: 26 MUST-HAVE Facts [Data & Charts]

  1. Sarahtheweb says:

    Do you have now anything more recent ? Ive been looking everywhere on the internet but you seem to have gathered what was there.

  2. QR Codes are still big in
    Japan. The data is old (2005) but interesting:

    90% under 20 were using them. 84% were using them from magazines – women using them for mail
    order74% for access URLs27% (high I thought) for ecommerce purchase from magazines

  3. AJ says:

    I am seeing QR Codes popping up everywhere:

    Home Depot: On plants to show you the care and feeding.
    Subway: Enter contests
    Taco Bell/PepsiCo: On the cups to download new music
    Realtors: Virtual tour of the house you are looking at just by scanning the code on the flyer.
    State Farm Insurance: Putting QRC’s on the business cards of their agents with contact and web info.
    Temporary Tattoos for your kid: Put the your contact information on the tatt in case the kid is lost on a trip. (Not a big fan of this one as I can see that the “bad guys” could use this information.)
    Magazine Advertising: I picked one out of the mail the other day. 23 ads—17QRC’s
    Wal Mart, Best Buy, Nike, MissMe Jeans, Macy’s “Back Stage Pass,” Murphy Oil, Extra Gum packaging, Frito Lay…EVERYWHERE!

    We are using them for our advertising clients in table-top advertising in Texas as well. Giving the customer a great way to interact even more through websites, contact information, or videos. It is a great way to add value and content. QRC’s give the prospective customer an immediate opportunity to respond!

    This technology is still in the adoption phase, but I see it being a common way of communicating by the end of 2012…

  4. Sujay says:

    Hi Heidi,

    We have recently created a cool infographic on the Rise of QR Codes. Check it out and let us know what you think.


  5. Queaar says:

    This is great post about QR codes. Are there any data about comparative study between QR codes and other 2D codes ?. We saw 15 successful 2D code campaign and noticed 9 out 15 are using QR codes as technology enablers for marketing campaigns. Are there any stats about 2D code market segment taken by QR Code, Microsoft Tag, JAGTAG, Scan life Code and NFC ?

  6. Dave says:

    Thanks for this comprehensive information Heidi. I’ve been a big fan of qr code marketing since first exposed to it and am glad to see some data showing it’s gaining momentum.

  7. Kenny C Rodgers says:

    I’d still like to know just WHAT “QR Codes” really are. I’m 65, have two cell phones, but neither is a smart phone or any of the newer sophisticated equipment. This is the first time I’m heard of the technology, so I’m pretty lost. Perhaps I’ll search the web for more information or check Wikipedia. Thanks for the information, however.

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Kenny– Thank you for stopping by. To find out more about QR Codes, here’s an explanation of QR codes [http://heidicohen.com/qr-code/].

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  8. John Murphy says:

    Heidi, I must agree with the other comments that this is a great piece of work. I’m also in the UK and have been tracking where the codes crop up. Still early days methinks and marketers need to start thinking about just how versatile they will be in using them. A good example of a slightly different use can be found at vizibility.com, the idea being to create credibility for your business to show clients. Coupons and offers are great but still more creative ideas are possible.

  9. Andy Lynn says:

    This is an excellent article. This gives alot of insight, and marketing tips to carry with. Not surprising, these reasons are similar to those that U.S. consumers give for following a brand on social media platforms.I would agree that it is important to supply viewers with a call to action and info how to download a QR Code reader. I’m sure in the near future, statistics will show Americans scanning at least once a week.
    Andy Lynn

  10. uQR.me says:

    a huge thank you heidi for your effort in gathering and sorting all those data. this post is a milestone. hope to see you around at uqr.me we’d be glad to hear from you about our dynamic qrs-based social utility.


  11. Delia deLisser says:

    Heidi – highly informative, comprehensive piece on QR codes and where they stand in the unending process of consumer adoption. On a lighter note, I realized QR codes had finally hit the top of the “hype” bell curve when Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert featured one in their hilarious musical performance of the (also over-hyped) viral music video “Friday” on Jimmy’s show last Thursday – http://www.hulu.com/watch/229352/late-night-with-jimmy-fallon-stephen-colbert-sings-friday-with-the-roots.

  12. Great informative statistics on mobile QR usage. Again I agree that it would be interesting to see the placement of codes i.e. in public transit vehicles or in newspaper. I just visited the car show in my city this past weekend, where Audi and Subaru have already adapted to using QR codes by allowing you to download additional information about their products or awards and specifications to the car of your choice.

  13. Thanks for these stats, really useful and informative.
    What would be interesting to see is where are QR codes mainly printed (and hence where the greatest activity is). There has been a lot of talk in the UK about putting them on public transport – buses in particular, even the tube (although that will probably stall as there isn’t going to be any mobile signal on the Underground for a while). Once we see where people are scanning them from then we will have an even better idea about their abilities.