What’s the Very Latest with Consumers and How They’re Using QR Codes?

Scanning a QR code with a smartphoneI’ve written before about QR (quick response) codes and how they’re viewed as a marketer’s dream.

What can be better than the ability for consumers to point-and-click their smartphones for instant access to product details, a coupon or other information … without them having to type in a web address?

But it’s been observed that U.S. consumers are a bit more reticent to use them compared to their Japanese counterparts (where QR codes got their start).

And a July 2011 survey of ~500 adult social media users conducted by research firm Lab42 (Chicago, IL) found that nearly 60% of the respondents were not familiar with QR codes. Furthermore, only ~13% of the respondents were able to use a QR code when prompted to do so in the research, suggesting that many of those saying they were familiar with QR codes may never have actually used them — or maybe only experimented with them once or twice.

But now that some time has elapsed since QR codes have made their debut in America, we have access to field research to help us understand how U.S. consumers are actually interacting with them.

The data comes in the form of a new MobiLens study by comScore, which has found that ~14 million mobile users in the U.S. scanned a QR code on their “smart” mobile device at least once during June 2011.

That figure represents ~6% of the total mobile audience over the age of 13. Not a big percentage, but considering that smartphones still represent only a minority of all mobile phones in circulation (just shy of 40%), it shows that use of QR codes is happening to some degree.

And what are the demographic characteristics of QR code users? According to comScore, they’re more likely to be male (~61% of the code scanning audience) … they definitely skew younger (~53% are between the ages of 18 and 34) … and they’re more likely to be upper-income folks (~36% have household incomes of $100,000+).

What are the most popular sources of scanned QR codes? The study shows that this skews more toward “traditional” media: magazines and newspapers:

 Printed magazines or newspapers: ~49% of the QR code audience
 Product packaging: ~35%
 Websites on a PC: ~27%
 Posters, flyers or kiosks: ~24%
 Business cards or sales brochures: ~13%
 Storefronts: ~13%
 Television: ~12%

I got a chuckle out of the fact that QR codes published on websites receive so many scans … it would seem to me that if someone is already sitting at a desktop or laptop computer, what’s the point of scanning a QR code into a smartphone? But I’m sure people have their reasons.

And where are people situated when they’re scanning a QR code? To hear many marketers tell it, they’re most excited about placing QR codes on billboards or in other public paces. But comScore has found out that most people are scanning QR codes not while “out and about” … but when sitting at home:

 Scanning QR codes at home: ~58% of the QR code audience
 … At a retail store: ~39%
 … At the grocery store: ~25%
 … At work: ~20%
 … Outside, or when using public transit: ~13%
 … In a restaurant: ~8%

If you’re interested in reviewing additional findings from the comScore MobiLens study, you can find them here. Because of the “newness and novelty” of QR codes in the American market, not doubt comScore will be returning to this research topic regularly to chart how consumer behaviors continue to evolve over time.

2 thoughts on “What’s the Very Latest with Consumers and How They’re Using QR Codes?

  1. The best place ever where I saw a QR code was one from Thailand Tourism on the immigration officer’s desk at the Bangkok airport.

    Too bad one is not allowed to use phones and cameras in the area. Amazing Thailand! 😉

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