How did QR codes go from DOA to killer app?
About a decade ago QR codes were looking like a hot new technology, popping up on billboards throughout the U.S. and enticing smartphone users to scan. But without a pressing use case and with minimal customer adoption, within a few years of that they became something closer to a running joke.
In the past few years, brands have begun taking another look at QR codes and some experts are now adding them to the list of technologies that the novel coronavirus pandemic has helped turn into a part of daily life.
Contactless payment, pulling up digital menus, self-serve ordering, touchless shopping and contact-free returns are but a few of the pandemic-era uses for QR codes that Ad Exchanger senior editor Allison Schiff cited in an article from late 2020.
The technology has been leveraged by businesses of all sizes, too. Small companies have been using the technology with pop-ups to let customers arrange delivery or pickup for products not available on hand. Big chains like CVS have begun allowing the use of QR codes for payment.
In addition to the pandemic placing a premium on fast, touch-free interactions, adoption has also been bolstered by native QR-code scanning capabilities in both Apple and Android phones, so consumers no longer need install a separate app to scan.
Consumers are apparently aware of the resurgence — 46 percent of those polled in a Statista study agreed that they had noticed a spike in the use of technology in the U.S. and U.K. since March.
At least one of the most talked about retail innovations of late 2020 had a QR code attached. Walmart’s partnership with FedEx for free at-home returns pickups allows customers to either print out a return shipping label or generate a QR code and drop off the package at a FedEx location.
While QR codes may finally be seeing a comeback stateside, in Asia they never fell out of favor. QR codes are central to the operations of checkout-free grocers like China’s Bingobox, which launched in 2016.
- QR Codes Are 2020’s Comeback Kid Because There’s Actually A Reason To Use Them – Ad Exchanger
- Increase of QR codes usage since shelter-in-place began according to consumers in the United States and United Kingdom as of September 2020 – Statista
- Is free at-home pickup of online returns practicable? – RetailWire
- QR codes are back and ready to hit it big – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see QR codes having compelling enough use cases to remain popular in the long term? How should retailers and brands think about leveraging QR codes if they are not already?