Monday, August 15, 2011

QR Codes – 14 million US Users in June 2011 and Growing

In a recent press release, comScore reported that 14 million U.S. smartphone users scanned a Quick imageResponse (QR) code in June 2011.  At 6% of total mobile phone owners, this is not a bad number for one month.  The age skews 18 – 35 years old (more than 50% of all scans) and with incomes over $100k.  Most of those who  scanned are male (60%).  Smartphone penetration is now at 38% according to Nielsen, and 55% of mobile phone purchases made in the last three months were smartphones. The adoption of use for QR codes are tied closely to smartphone penetration.

Where are Consumers Finding QR Codes? 

As the tables below show, people are using this smartphone technology when reading magazine and newspaper advertising or looking at product packaging.  Most of this usage takes place at home (58%), contrary to the much touted out-of-home, on-the-go usage promised for this new technology.

Source of Scanned QR/Bar Code
June 2011
Total Mobile Audience U.S. Age 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens

  QR/Bar Code Audience (000)

% of QR/Bar Code Audience*

Total Audience: Scanned QR/bar code with mobile phone



Printed magazine or newspaper



Product packaging 5,101 35.3%
Website on PC 3,957 27.4%
Poster or flyer or kiosk 3,393 23.5%
Business card or brochure 1,940 13.4%
Storefront 1,850


TV 1,693 11.7%

 *Percentages will not sum to 100% as respondents may select more than one source of QR/bar code scanned

imageWhat are QR Codes Being Used For?
QR codes are currently being used for coupons and discount offers.  They are a tool to “stretch” an advertisement to gain additional trial via some type of offer.    While the consumer seems interested in looking for value from the QR code, the fact that the scanning is done mostly through magazines and packaging would suggest this is a slightly redundant activity that could have been offered right in the ad itself. 



 What is Next for QR Code Adoption?

The QR code Hyper Cycle (adapted from Gartner Hyper Cycle) from 2D code showimages how this trend is progressing in more mature markets, such as Japan, and how this trend may evolve in the US.  In Japan, QR codes seem to be pervasive on every street corner, and consumers don’t pay much attention anymore.  As the chart on the right would indicate, they have reached the peak of popularity and are now sliding down the path of disillusionment.  The US market is different as QR codes are now catching on in advertising and communication.  Only about half the population in the US knows what a QR code is.  This means we are likely still on the upswing and have more room for growth.  The period of “frenzy” of early adopters will give way to the more stable and evolving mode.  Continued growth will require that QR codes have more rich and dynamic benefits than adding it to a newspaper advertisement which is viewed in your house.  More creative adaptations to gain value for the consumer will likely be needed if the QR code is to survive.


Jim said...

2012 will be the year of the WR code. 1.) Nielsen predicts that by year end half our mobile population will own a smartphone. The new models all have a scanner built in, so the confusion about downloading or using a scanner will be behind us; 2.) Marketers have been mis-firing in their execution, so we will get all our kinks behind us and utilize the platform correctly.

Bob Clark said...

2012 will be big for QR. Hope we marketers think of some really creative uses for them...

Jim said...


Another driving force here will be the number of big box retailers that have jumped on QR codes for Back-To-School - JC Penny, Target, Bed & Bath, etc. Millennials will become scanners and Mom & Dad who will be along for the ride since they have the plastic will now open their eyes and say: "Oh those things!"