QR Code @ a glance

According to comScore (2011), 36.4% of all Canadian cell phone users own a Smartphone.(1) The numbers are increasing and show no signs of reversing. This growth is paralleled in the number of mobile app users, who have swelled 42% over the previous year, and has resulted in new opportunities to use emerging technologies such as Quick Response (QR) codes.

In 2011, 1.3 million Canadians scanned at least one QR code with their phones (comScore, 2011). Use of barcodes has experienced an increase of 300% from 2010 to 2011, and more than 1000% between 2009 and 2011, according to Marketing Charts (2012).(2) Users tend to be men (63%), a third of who are 25 years old and younger.(3)

The primary reason QR codes are used is to access product information (63%). In fact, nearly 80% of all QR codes are placed in newspaper and magazine ads, and link to information about the promoted product or service itself. Incidentally, the channels where people are most likely to scan QR codes are the aforementioned newspaper and magazines ads, as well as in websites and on product packaging.

In Canada, Ontario has the highest QR code usage (48%), followed by the Prairies (17%), Quebec (16%), British Columbia (13%) and the Atlantic provinces (6%) (comScore 2011).

But what, exactly, is a QR code?

Created in Japan, the Quick Response code is a type of two dimensional barcode that allows the storage of large quantities of information. To put it in perspective, a QR code can hold up to 7049 numeric characters and 4296 alphanumeric characters, whereas traditional barcodes can only contain 10 to 13 characters.(4) Each code is unique and consists of black modules on a white surface. QR codes allow interaction with users in several different ways. They can:

  • Redirect the user to a website or bookmark a page.
  • Add an electronic business card (vCard of MeCard) to the user’s contacts or insert an event into their schedules (iCalender).
  • Trigger a phone call or an SMS.
  • Identify the physical location of a business on a map.
  • Give access to exclusive promotions.
  • And more!

Accessing content with QR codes is fairly straightforward. The user must simply download a QR code reader mobile app on a smart phone and scan the code.

Notable QR code reader apps include Mobiletag, 2D Sense, QR Reader, QR Code Scanner Pro Free, Lynkee, Barcode Scanner, ixMAT, i-nigma, BeeTag, Quickmark, Microsoft Tag, and Neo reader. They are readily available to download across several different mobile platforms and many are free.

On the other hand, it would be wise to remember that QR codes only impact a small segment of consumers. According to a study conducted by Quorus Consulting Group (2011), 10% of all Canadians made use of QR codes in 2011.(5) This is not surprising due to the presence of numerous restrictive elements such as the need to own a Smartphone and the need to download a dedicated mobile app; something that only a small number of users are willing to do. In addition, many organizations have made poor use of QR code technology and have repeatedly failed to understand how to use it effectively. We often see QR codes placed in underground trains or airplanes; places where users don’t generally have internet access. Some companies have generated QR codes that link users to websites that haven’t even been optimized for mobile devices. Finally, many new emerging technologies and innovations are threatening the very existence of QR codes such as the nFC code, Blippar, and even Google GOGGLES. To be continued…

This article was co-written by Annabelle Laframboise and Genevieve Couture.

(1) comScore Mobilens (2011). «Mobilens : Canadian Web Mobile».

(2) Marketing Charts (2012). «Mobile Barcode Scanning Tripled in 2011». Site Internet. <http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/mobile-barcode-scanning-tripled-in-2011-20968/?utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=mc&utm_medium=textlink>.

(3) IDEM

(4)Code-QR.Net. (2011)«Définition du code QR – C’est quoi un code QR et à quoi ça sert ?». Site Internet. <http://www.code-qr.net/definition.php>

(5) Quorus Consulting Group (2011) «2011 Cell Phone Consumer Attitudes Study». Prepared for CWTA.