With online payments, product packaging, and augmented reality craze, QR Code marketing has evolved into a fan’s favorite with apparent potential. But beneath the surface, is it merely a fleeting trend? Is it surviving on borrowed time, or does it have room for further expansion? Let’s find out.
According to a recent QR Code trend report, QR Code creation has increased by 238.06% between 2021 and 2022. This suggests that QR Codes are more than just a passing trend.
In this article, we will uncover the history, current state, and emerging trends in QR Code marketing. You will also explore the latest innovations that promise to transform how we use QR Codes.
The Inception of QR Codes
Denso Wave, a Japanese car company, developed the QR Code in 1994 to solve the problems of UPC barcodes, which needed to be faster, more efficient, and easier to read on car parts.
They soon realized that QR Codes can hold more information and be read from multiple directions, angles, and distances.
Soon, the QR Code technology became freely available. The advent of mobile devices with cameras only made it easier to scan QR Codes, which led to their extensive adoption by businesses and individuals alike.
Fast Forward to the Current State of QR Code Marketing
QR Code usage has increased since the pandemic. They have found their groove in marketing across sectors, from the real estate industry to FMCG companies to restaurant menus and event tickets.
So, what’s making QR Code marketing so popular? First, QR Codes are visual and immediate. Second, they can offer you a kick of instant gratification and reward your curiosity. Finally, QR Codes cut through the noise like no other medium can.
They also offer several advantages, such as contactless engagement, easy data collection, tracking, and enhanced prospect engagement.
These days, QR Codes appear on social media, billboards, magazines, newspaper ads, and packaging, among other channels. Small, medium, and large enterprises see QR Codes for what they are and use them broadly to engage with customers, provide information, and accept payments.
British Airways, for example, uses QR Codes on boarding passes to speed up check-in.
8 Emerging Trends in QR Code Marketing
The future of QR Code marketing looks bright and high. Recently, QR Codes have been used extensively in marketing and advertising, with a 323% increase in their use in the industry from 2021 to 2023.
Marketers are now using QR Codes in new and innovative ways to engage prospects, create personalized marketing experiences, and reduce their environmental impact.
Here are eight emerging QR Code marketing trends that you should watch out for:
1. Interactive QR Codes and Augmented Reality (AR)
Interactive QR Codes let scanners engage with QR Codes in a more meaningful way than just scanning them and going to a website. With an interactive QR Code, you can launch an AR experience, start a game, and even provide your customers with personalized content.
AR lets you create immersive experiences that overlay digital information in the real world.
QR Codes can trigger AR experiences, such as letting prospects try on clothes or see how a piece of furniture would look in their home before they buy it. Disney uses QR Codes to launch AR experiences that let prospects interact with their favorite Disney characters and attractions.
2. Personalizing with QR Codes
Customer personalization is a huge deal if you want your marketing campaigns to succeed, and QR Codes let you add that personal touch to your campaigns.
A QR Code on a product package could lead customers to personalized recommendations based on their preferences and purchase history.
This level of personalization creates a stronger connection between customers and brands, leading to increased loyalty and sales.
For instance, Sephora uses QR Codes to let customers scan products in stores and receive personalized recommendations based on their purchase history and skin type.
3. Perform Geolocation-Based Promotions
QR Codes can be used as bait to target prospects based on their location, enabling businesses to create location-specific promotions or content, drive foot traffic to stores, or guide prospects to new products and services.
For example, a restaurant could use a QR Code to offer customers a discount on their meal if they scan it while they’re at the restaurant.
4. Improved Social Media Engagement
You can direct customers to your brand’s social media channels using QR Codes. This will increase your brand’s follower base and prompt more likes. You can also use QR Codes to easily share user-generated content or launch hashtag campaigns.
For example, a clothing brand could use a QR Code on its product packaging to allow customers to easily share photos of themselves wearing the brand’s clothes on Instagram.
5. Enables Contactless Payments and Loyalty Programs
Customer loyalty is difficult to earn. But QR Codes essentially enable contactless payments and loyalty programs.
This is a convenient and secure solution for customers and businesses as the world moves towards a more contactless and technologically-abled society. A coffee cafe could use a QR Code to allow customers to pay for their drinks without touching cash or a card.
6. Increase Engagement Using Gamification
QR Codes can be used to gamify marketing activities, such as scavenger hunts, loyalty programs, and product launches. This can make marketing campaigns more engaging and interactive, and it can also help to improve customer loyalty. For example, a museum could use a QR Code to create a scavenger hunt for visitors, with prizes for those who complete it.
7. Dynamic QR Codes Improve QR Code’s User Experience
Dynamic QR Codes can be updated in real-time, which makes them useful for marketing, such as promoting limited-time offers or providing customers with up-to-date information. For example, a restaurant could use a dynamic QR Code to display its current menu or daily specials.
8. Sustainability and Eco-friendly QR Codes
Sustainability is a priority given the recent global summit. QR Codes can be adopted on biodegradable materials and used to promote sustainable products and services. This helps to reduce waste and makes QR Code marketing campaigns more environmentally friendly.
For example, a company could use biodegradable QR Codes on its packaging to encourage customers to recycle.
Let us now look at innovative ways to use QR Code marketing in your business and marketing strategy.
QR Code Innovations
So far, we’ve understood that QR Codes have evolved from simple data carriers to powerful tools that are ruling the digital marketing world. Here are five innovations that have further elevated QR Codes to the status of essential assets, with applications across industries, from security to the metaverse:
1. Security Enhancement
Recently, QR Codes have been used to improve companies’ security architecture.
They can enable two-factor authentication, which makes it more difficult for unauthorized users or cyber thieves to gain access to accounts and systems.
Like Mastercard, you can use Dynamic QR Codes, which change constantly, to prevent counterfeiting and unauthorized data retrieval. Mastercard has developed QR Codes for contactless payments, which allow authorized consumers to make purchases without touching a physical card or terminal.
2. Blockchain and QR Code Integration
QR Codes and blockchain technology are partnering to make supply chains more transparent and trustworthy. Each QR Code can be linked to a digital asset on a blockchain, which can then be used to track and verify logistics from where they’re made to where they’re sold.
The World Economic Forum’s TradeLens platform uses QR Codes to track the flow of goods worldwide. This helps to prevent counterfeiting and ensure that consumers are getting authentic products
3. Anti-Counterfeiting Applications
QR Codes are now powerful tools in the fight against counterfeit products. Businesses can use them to give consumers real-time access to product information so people can check authenticity on the spot.
This has shaken up the counterfeit market and boosted consumer confidence. For example, Pfizer uses QR Codes to track its medications, preventing counterfeiting and protecting patient safety.
4. Voice and IoT Integration
QR Codes are converging with voice-activated devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) to open new doors to convenience. Users can scan a QR Code to access voice-assisted services, control smart devices, or reorder products.
For example, you can scan a QR Code to control your Google Home or Amazon Echo smart speaker or to reorder your favorite products from Amazon.
5. QR Codes in the Metaverse
As the metaverse gains traction, QR Codes will play more of a definite role in bridging the physical and virtual worlds. They serve as gateways to virtual stores and experiences, enabling users to transition between realities. For example, you can scan a QR Code to enter a virtual Gucci store in Roblox or explore a virtual art gallery in the metaverse.
6. Virtual Stores and Experiences
QR Codes are also fueling the rise of virtual stores, enabling brands to create immersive shopping experiences within the metaverse. Shoppers can scan codes to enter these digital worlds, browse virtual shelves, try on virtual products, and make purchases – all from the comfort of their own homes.
7. NFTs and Digital Collectibles
Like in the metaverse, QR Codes have also become the bridge between the physical and digital spaces for NFTs and digital assets. They are used to authenticate ownership and provide access to these digital assets. For example, Spotify is testing QR Codes that allow artists to sell NFTs of their songs.
Examples of Brands using QR Codes to Create Innovative Experiences and Promote Sustainability
Here are some brands using augmented reality (AR) QR Codes to create engaging customer experiences and promote Sustainability. These QR Codes let customers virtually try on clothes, learn more about products and their manufacturing processes, and authenticate products to combat counterfeiting.
Adidas has used AR QR Codes to create engaging customer experiences, such as creating an AR experience that shows a virtual trash-filled ocean to promote its eco-friendly shoes.
Burberry has been using AR to elevate the brand experience, integrating AR and QR Codes into its website, app, and marketing campaigns. For example, Burberry collaborated with Google to let customers view 3D images of its products in Google Search results.
QR Code Challenges and Considerations in 2023
QR Codes are popular, but there are still some challenges and considerations that need to be addressed.
The lion’s share of the problem is data privacy. QR Codes can hold and encode a great deal of information, including personal data. When you scan a QR Code, you essentially give the QR Code creator access to that information.
There have been several cases of QR Codes being used to collect personal data without users’ consent.
Pro tip: To protect your privacy, only scan QR Codes from trusted sources. Be careful about the information you encode in QR Codes yourself. As for businesses and marketers, you should have a reliable QR code tool such as Uniqode (formerly Beaconstac) QR code generator, that is SOC® 2 and GDPR compliant.
Another challenge is standardization and compatibility. There are several different QR Code formats and versions, and not all QR Code scanners are compatible with all QR Code formats. This can lead to problems when users try to scan QR Codes.
To address this challenge, several organizations have developed standards for QR Codes. The most common QR Code standard is the ISO/IEC 18004 standard. QR Code scanners that support the ISO/IEC 18004 standard should be able to scan any QR Code.
QR Code Marketing: What Will the Future Look Like?
With an impatient audience and the growing technologically driven world, QR Codes are soon becoming popular and versatile, and their future looks bright. Here are three predictions for the future of QR Codes:
1. QR Code Ubiquity
QR Codes are already used in various industries, but they are likely to become even more ubiquitous in the future. For example, QR Codes could be used to:
- Access product information and reviews in retail stores
- View electronic boarding passes and tickets
- Track medical histories and vaccination records
- Access educational resources in schools and universities
2. Integration with Wearable Technology
QR Codes could be integrated with wearable technology, such as smartwatches and AR glasses, to make them even more convenient and valuable. For example, customers could scan QR Codes directly from their wearables to:
- Get real-time information about their surroundings
- Link to personalized health plans, dietary information, and fitness regimens
- Access location-based data and augmented reality experiences
3. AI-driven QR Code Marketing
Here’s how Artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to make QR Code marketing campaigns more effective:
- Create Personalized QR Code Marketing Campaigns
QR Codes and AI chatbots can be used to create personalized marketing campaigns. For example, a customer could scan a QR Code on a product in a store. This would send information about the customer’s purchase history and browsing behavior to an AI chatbot. The chatbot could then suggest related products the customer might be interested in.
- Create AI-QR Codes in Product Packaging
You can use QR Codes and AI to provide customers with personalized information about the product, such as ingredients, nutritional value, and allergens. For example, a customer with a peanut allergy could scan a QR Code and ask the AI chatbot if the product is safe to eat. AI can also recommend products based on the customer’s dietary needs and preferences. QR Codes are easier to read than complex labels, and AI makes it easy for customers to get the information they need. This can help customers to make informed choices about the products they buy.
- Predictive analysis capabilities
AI & QR Codes can provide businesses with in-depth analytics on how consumers interact with their QR Codes.
The evolution of QR Code marketing is a testament to the ever-changing nature of the digital marketing landscape. Marketers and popular brands have been using QR Codes because of their potential.
QR Codes are not merely a bridge between the physical and digital worlds; they are a critical part of the future of marketing itself. The answer to success lies in staying updated, embracing innovation, and always being bold in the crowded marketplace.