Study: Nearly 20% of Smartphone Shoppers Use QR Codes to Buy

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Boston—While they may not know what QR codes are actually called, half of smartphone users have scanned QR codes with 18% making a purchase.

At least that’s what Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB), a market research firm,  and iModerate Research Technologies found in their recent survey of 1,228 consumers and their behavior relating to QR codes.

QR (Quick Response) codes are a type of matrix or two-dimensional barcodes that can store relatively large amounts of information and can be scanned easily with a smartphone or table computer. Usually represented as square pattern on a white background, QR codes are rapidly being adopted by retailers and brands as a means to entice consumers to scan and receive more information about a product or service.

Despite their popularity, the survey found that only 21% of smartphone users knew QR codes by name. But nearly all of them had seen them. 

“The biggest surprise is that 70% found them easy to use,” says Jeffrey McKenna, senior consultant at CMB. “That surprised me because it is a new technology. Given that most people don’t know the name of QR codes, the fact that the people who have used them find them easy reflects that the technology is not a hindrance for people.”

Most QR Codes Scanned from Magazines, Newspapers

While there’s relatively a small number of “tech-savvy” consumers using QR as part of their shopping (or buying), there numbers are increasing and—especially promising for marketers—two in five use the QR codes with a specific intention in mind, such as making a purchase or sharing information with friends.

Among the findings in the QR survey:

●Nearly 1 in 5 who scanned a QR code made a purchase after scanning, but most (57%) said they did nothing with QR information.

●81% say they’ve seen a QR code, but only 21% knew what they were called.

●Half of smartphone users have scanned a QR code

●70% of those who scanned QR codes, said it was very easy

●Results are mixed on QR codes’ usefulness, 41% say the information they got was useful. Another 42% termed the codes’ usefulness as “mixed.”

●Men (44%) were more likely to find QR codes useful compared with women (36%)

●Magazines and newspapers are the most common QR source for those who’ve scanned a code

●46% of those who’ve scanned a QR code did so because they were curious. Another 41% said they used the QR code to get more information about a product or service.

Kristen Garvey, CMB’s vice president of marketing, says that the fact that 2 in 5 smartphone users thought QR codes were useful affords a big opportunity for retailers and brands to use QR codes in their marketing.

“We found smartphone owners and non-smartphone owners alike are curious about QR codes for information and for discounts, free gifts and exclusive deals, and they find the process of scanning to be really easy,” Garvey says. “But as more and more consumers get smartphones and the ability to scan, marketers must go beyond the novelty of the application if they expect customers to scan again and make it a regular part of the purchase process.”


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Jeff Prine

Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology.