QR code usage accelerates when the pandemic hits. That is why, it is important to look at the QR code statistics before and after Covid-19. QR code is the shorthand of Quick Response code, a two-dimensional barcode that is readable by smartphones. Created in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes exist for 26 years but its massive adoption happens recently when the pandemic took off worldwide. At present, QR code is now used in many contexts. Although it is widely used in marketing and information sharing, it becomes even more popular when it is used to make mobile payments especially since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
It is even used by restaurant industries as the need for contactless menus surge. Thus, QR code is rapidly arriving at high levels of acceptance worldwide. That being said, you might be wondering about the exact numbers of the ongoing trend of QR code usage before and after Covid-19.
Table of Contents
- Why is looking at trends for QR codes important?
- QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Usage before Covid
- Use cases: QR codes as used in industries
- QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Usage after Covid
- QR code Covid-19 statistics report: QR code search trend overview
- QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Projections for QR code usage from 2021 to 2025
- Main Use Cases: QR code after Covid-19
- The surge of QR code usage: Factors driving its growth
Why is looking at trends for QR codes important?
As the consciousness towards health and safety increases due to the pandemic, the need for contactless interactions becomes vital. Looking at the trends for QR code usage allows us to see how technology adoption accelerated when the pandemic hits.
The QR code Covid-19 statistics report also tells us that as health measures become stringent, traditional methods are no longer an option. Here are the exhaustive lists of QR code statistics from reports and databases.
QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Usage before Covid
QR code didn’t seem to catch on back around 2010 when it was first starting to be widely used. The primary reason was the high barrier to entry. Moreover, at that time not many people own smartphones, and those who did often had to download a third-party app to read the codes. In June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the US scanned a QR code on their smartphones. This is about 6.2% of the total mobile audience in that country. 58% percent did so from their home, while 39.4 %percent did so from a retail store and 24.5 percent did so from a grocery store. Nearly 20% percent scanned a QR code while at work, while 12.6% percent did so outside or on public transit and 7.6% percent did so while in a restaurant.
In the past decade, QR codes have not been widely adopted in the U.S. However the North American region slowly adopts QR codes as smartphone usage increases. Let’s look back at how the region transitions to QR code technology from 2011 to the present. The study found that in June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile device.
Source: BBC News
Moreover, Comscore study found that a mobile user that scanned a QR code during the month was more likely to be male (60.5 percent of code scanning audience), skew toward ages 18-34 (53.4 percent), and have a household income of $100k or above (36.1 percent). The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning. It found that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging and do so while at home or in a store.
Total smart product activations grew 63% and interactions increased 81% from 2018-2020, while the growth in the number of interactions per active object grew 48%. This amounted to total smart product reach growing 92% over the same period. Fast forward to 2020, and 81% of U.S. adults have smartphones. And nearly all of them read QR with no third-party app required.
The Digital 2021 Global Overview Report states that the average American now spends more than 4 hours per day using their mobile phone. This increase in mobile phone usage correlates with the adoption of QR codes by Americans. At present, around 11 million households in the US will scan a QR code every year (Statista, 2019). The data implies that the Covid-19 pandemic and the health measures imposed in various states in the US contributed to the mammoth-like growth of QR code usage.
Way back in 2015, the use of QR codes in Europe was limited, with many users interacting with them at stores.
The study found that only 5% of total interactions are made when out for shopping (Statista, 2015). And those who were only occasionally using QR codes were only found to be about 9% of the German population.
Moreover, Millennials had a higher QR code usage as per the Statista 2017 data.
Although Asian countries, particularly China were the first to embrace QR code technology even before the pandemic, it still important to see how QR code usage grew since then. A 2014 study by Statista reports that almost 20% of Asian consumers use mobile phones to scan a QR code in-store. This data suggests that even before the pandemic, Asians are familiar with QR codes already as it is even used in in-store smartphone shopping. This is a good illustration of how Asian consumers use QR codes for shopping. The QR code usage in Asia even more accelerated when China launches it as a means to pay. China is deemed to be the global early mover in the mobile payment market and is the biggest in the world.
Source: Zocco, Stefania (University of Venice)
It is accounted that more than 55% of the internet users in the country have made at least one mobile payment. When WeChat use the QR code as an alternative payment option, it accelerated QR code usage in China. In effect, a total of $1.65 trillion worth of transactions was made via QR code payments in 2016 alone (CNN, 2017). A few years later, the said data increased especially during the pandemic. According to a 2019 survey, 50% of QR code scanners in China regularly scan QR codes few times a week.
Use cases: QR codes as used in industries
Fast-moving consumer goods industry
According to Deloitte Insights in 2014, industries rely heavily on inexpensive package-level technologies such as QR codes.
In 2018, smart packaging solutions were offered by 11 companies which include the QR code solution. In a 2019 study by Packaging Insights,65% of Chinese consumers think scanning QR Codes on product packaging instills a blanket of trust when they purchase a certain product from a brand. An interesting use-case for the FMCG industry is when Heinz included a QR code for their green packaging. When scanned, customers can learn what their new packaging meant for the environment.
The retail industry is no exception to the worldwide adoption of QR codes even before the pandemic. For instance, Escape Boutique, a ladies and menswear retailer store in United Kingdom creatively uses QR codes for a convenient window shopping experience.
Source: Escape Boutique
Each of the displayed items in the shop’s windows has printed QR code cards. When scanned using smartphones, shoppers will be redirected to the store’s website to order.
QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Usage after Covid
During the Covid-19 pandemic, QR code usage rise as it is predominantly used in “contactless” contact tracing. According to a study by Statista, done in September 2020, less than 15% of respondents haven’t used a QR code, and over 30% have scanned a QR code within the last week. Thus, the use of QR codes is on the rise throughout the world. And it grows exponentially in 2020.
Various countries required citizens to check into venues (such as hotels or nightclubs) by scanning QR codes on their phones using a contact tracing app. The QR code helps to easily track down and contact people who tested positive of Covid. Covid-tracking procedures like easier isolation are now in placed with the adoption of QR codes. For example, people in China can sign up through Ant’s popular wallet app, Alipay, and are assigned a color code. The assigned color indicates their health status for easy tracing. At present, the system is already in use in 200 cities and is being rolled out nationwide, Ant says. Other countries, like Argentina, have seen an explosive rate of interaction with QR codes. Between 2018 and 2020, there was a 14% increase in the use of QR code payment methods by an adult in Argentina and another 7% increase projected for 2022.
In North America, there is a significant increase of people who have scanned a QR code during the pandemic. Payment Journal (2020) found that there is an additional 11% or a total of 24% who have used QR code when the pandemic happened. This a large growth from 13% of Americans who have used the QR codes on their smartphones prior to the pandemic.
As illustrated from the above graph, we can conclude that Americans frequently see QR codes in restaurants, bar and cafes. Then followed by retailers and on a consumer product. These data are supported by another study that half of the restaurants in the US use QR codes (National Restaurant Association, 2020). This is why restaurants or bars are the key locations where most Americans scanned a QR code. Another 2020 MobileIron poll survey found that 83% of respondents have scanned a QR code at least once, and 72% of people have scanned a QR code within the past month. And these numbers are currently rising. 36% have used QR codes as a payment method, with 53% saying they would use QR codes as a payment method in the future. The upward movement of this figure is attributed to the increased usage of QR code as tech tool for Covid-19 tracking. All this underscores that Americans will experience an exponential growth in QR code usage. As Juniper Research reports, the United States will have a solid growth in user numbers in the next five years from 2020. The main driver for this is that QR code payments begin to tap into the requirement for cashless transactions for a safer customer experience. One case we can cite is when CVS, a known US retailer starts to offer touch-free payments through a partnership with PayPal and Venmo at 8,200 stores (BBC, 2021)
A 2015 study estimates that the total population in Europe that is now considered as regular QR code users have doubled by 2018. When the pandemic hits, a survey estimates that 18.8 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom strongly agreed that they had noticed an increase in QR code when COVID-19 hits (Statista, 2020)
As a point of comparison, Europe used QR codes more than in Latin America in 2020 (Statista, 2021).
In other parts of Europe, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK, 17.8 percent of mobile users scanned a QR or a bar code, particularly a retail store (Statista). In Italy, QR codes are used in places such as cultural sites and museums for interactive content and to promote contactless learning. Over 30% of galleries in Italy utilized QR codes and 40% are interested in providing QR codes in the future (Statista, 2020). In sum, in 2021 the total QR code usage in Europe is at 10.1 million.
Moreover, many Asian countries embraced the technology; in China alone, they can facilitate everything from charging mobile phones to flirting in bars. According to Fortune, major cities such as Bangkok and Hong Kong tapped QR code technology in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic. You can find codes posted at the entrance to grocery stores and public transit centers to help contact-tracing efforts in case of outbreaks. In early 2020, the use of QR codes spread and its use grew. With more than 30% of new adopters using QR codes by the end of the 3rd quarter, in China.
Moreover, in other parts of Asia QR codes are becoming so widespread and used. For instance, it is the main preferred payment method (45%) in Macau, stimulated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On one hand, in Hong Kong QR code is the second preferred payment method (20%). While in Taiwan, QR code is the third preferred payment method comprising 21%. Likewise, India has also seen an increase of their mobile actions to over 40% use for scanning QR codes.
According to a survey conducted in 2020, about 35 percent of Japanese are using QR codes as payment methods.
Moreover, the survey states that approximately 43 percent of respondents in Japan said that they used QR code payment services. In Japan, there are various QR code service providers, and until recently, each provider used a different QR code. To reduce confusion and increase the usage of the payment method, the government started the promotion of a unified QR code and bar code called “JPQR“. From 2019 onwards, several providers started to launch their QR code payment services through the unified JPQR (Statista, 2021). Having this unified QR code impacts the growth of QR code usage in the country.
As a result, money transfers made via QR code and barcode payment services in Japan amounted to around 47.4 billion Japanese yen in 2019. (Statista, 2018-2019) The value of mobile money transfers increased by more than 39 billion Japanese yen compared to the previous year, indicating an increased usage of mobile payment services for money transfers. Let’s take a look as well how Singapore made use of QR code after the pandemic.
Singaporeans are slowly embracing QR code-based payments. As of 2019, about 48 percent of the Singaporeans aged between 25-34 years stated that they use QR code as an e-payment method (Statista, 2021).
The adoption of QR code as payment method in Singapore continues to soar during the pandemic. To illustrate, Asean Business (2021) notes that QR payment transactions jumped 272 per cent compared with the same period last 2020. Digital payment wallets like DBC states that QR code as an alternative payment option will “allow small businesses and even hawker stalls to adopt cashless payments without the need to lease payment terminals or pay for wiring.” (DBC, 2020). As reported by the study of National University of Singapore, the value and number of PayLah transactions jumped after DBS Bank added QR code as payment option.
QR code Covid-19 statistics report: QR code search trend overview
In terms of search trends related to QR codes, we can see that the related terms and the search rate have increased over time until the pandemic period. Let’s take a look at the data generated by Google Trends.
Source: Google Trends
Examining the above trend, there is a constant interest of searchers in QR code before Covid. However, during the last quarter of 2019 until 2020 onwards, the search volume climbed up.
What this shows is that the QR code is now visible by many people during the pandemic.
Also, many people are becoming curious how QR codes can be used and applied as a contactless method in transactions, in restaurant operations, and so on.
Menu QR code
Source: Google Trends
The term menu QR codes gain momentum during the last quarter of 2019 up to the year 2020. This trend illustrates that many hospitality businesses that reopen and are operating during the pandemic are using menu QR codes.
In the US, all restaurants and hospitality outlets are required to use a single-use menu or menu QR code. The mandate aims to ensure a safer dining environment, according to the guidelines issued by the National Restaurant Association.
Health QR code
Source: Google Trends
The graph above shows that there is a drastic increase in the search volume of the term “health QR code” in the last quarter of 2019 until 2020. The significance of this data is that it shows the rising interest of people in QR codes during the pandemic and how it is used to combat the difficulty of contact tracing.
Source: The Conversation
As part of the government efforts in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries are using health QR codes as means to quickly trace people if one tests positive of Covid. The online health checklist is accessible via QR code which speeds up the current manual processes and makes it quicker to stop the spread of the virus. For instance, New Zealand streamlined its contract tracing efforts by distributing official NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters to businesses and service industries. The move is driven by the accessibility and speed of QR code-enabled contact tracing procedures.
COVID QR code
Source: Google Trends
The search volume of Covid QR code is on the rise from 2019 to 2020. So, what does this mean? This data correlates to the search volume of the term health QR code. As more people are exposed to coronavirus, faster contact tracing becomes the primary concern. In effect, government and private institutions are looking for ways for faster contact tracking procedures. Thus, we can infer that by looking at search results for “QR Code,” “Menu QR Code,” “Health QR Code,” and “COVID QR Code,” there is a visible and significant increase since the beginning of 2020.
QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Projections for QR code usage from 2021 to 2025
A Statista study projects that there is a 22% increase for the use of QR codes by 2025 from 2020 across different regions.
In particular, a Juniper Research study found that the number of QR code coupons redeemed via mobile will reach 5.3 billion by 2022. This figure jumped from an estimated 1.3 billion in 2017. As gleaned from the above data, projections for the use of QR codes, post-COVID, only increase. The said projection is attributed to the safety regulations imposed by the government in contract tracing and the continuous QR code usage of various industries
Main Use Cases: QR code after Covid-19
When the Covid-19 hits in 2020, the QR code becomes an essential tool that helps out businesses in ensuring touchless transactions. Forbes states that QR code is predominantly deployed in restaurants to replace traditional menus. It is visible as well on doors for Covid-19 updates, and even in mailing and landing pages. Thus, the QR code has made a mighty comeback worldwide
The education sector is primarily the one who benefits the most from the QR code. When the Covid-19 hits, the education sector has to transition from the usual face-to-face classroom setup into online classes.
Some even used QR codes in terms of contact tracing and attendance checking among countries that already hold face-to-face classes.
Source: Global Times
This technology-based learning paradigm becomes the norm until now. For instance, Boise State University will launch a web application for improved contact tracing and attendance tracking in the said university. The students and instructors alike will use their smartphones to scan QR codes at assigned seats and locations in the classroom. According to the Boise State University admin, “The resulting data is cleaner and more accurate as opposed to asking students to fill out a survey, and makes it easier for our Public Health Office to facilitate contact tracing for potential interactions with individuals identified as positive for Covid-19.”
Governments’ contact tracing efforts
As various states and governments mount large-scale contact tracing efforts to curb the rising number of Covid cases, QR code is now the primary means to expedite this tedious contact tracing process. According to a study by Oxford University in April, it found that if even just 56% of a country’s population used a QR code tracking app, it could severely suppress the Covid-19 epidemic.
It is important to note that communities have to work collaboratively to stop the transmission of Covid-19. With the positive response of European countries in installing contact tracing apps for coronavirus, it is more likely that QR code usage will grow more.
As reported in the initial surveys by behavioral economists and the team of Oxford University, there are 6000 potential app users in 5 European countries. This data suggests that 73.6% of users would be likely to install a contact tracing app for coronavirus in the UK, and between 67.5% – 85.5% in France, Germany, Italy, and the USA.
As customer safety is the primary concern of every restaurant, the use of QR codes is expected to stay and grow post-pandemic. An industry report conduct by the National Restaurant Association noted that half of the full-service operators have added digital menus accessed by scanning a QR code.
In one interview with a restaurant owner, they have seen an increase of QR codes for their menu system. ThinkFoodGroup, which owns several restaurants, said that 110,000 guests have used the QR code menus since they launched the system. Each customer spends an average of 11 minutes using the menu QR code. It becomes easy and convenient to peruse the menu and to order. Thus, experts say that this technology will help the restaurant industry move forward outside of the pandemic.
Other sectors: Entertainment, Hospitality, and Health
The restaurants aren’t the only sector that largely uses QR codes in day-to-day operations. According to a recent survey by Adweek partnered with Morning Consult, people would likely use the QR code technology in hotels (51%), movie theaters (49%), medical offices (48%), museums (47%), and concert venues. Entertainment and hospitality are using QR codes to offer a multi-media experience and delightful stay experience for visitors and guests. The above figures indicate the hotels are investing more in technology to bounce back from the financial losses brought about by the pandemic. Even theatres, museums, and concert venues which all comprised the entertainment industry has to move forward with tech innovations. Medical offices have to cater to the safety concerns as well to the patients as these are key locations where Covid-19 transmission is more likely to occur. Hence, it is expected that post-pandemic, QR code will still play a big role in various sectors as consumer preferences are changing.
The surge of QR code usage: Factors driving its growth
The popularity of QR codes grows rapidly with the growth of smartphone users and internet usage. When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, the QR code usage even more skyrocketed. According to a Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, 66.6 percent of the world’s total population, or 5.22 billion people use a mobile phone today. Moreover, Digital 2021 Global Overview Report found that there is a significant increase of 7.3 percent of people who use the internet since 2020. At present, global internet penetration now stands at 59.5 percent. Because of these factors, the QR code is widely adopted by many countries. This is supported by a recent whitepaper published by Juniper research which predicts that 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes by 2022.
Given the magnitude of COVID-19 cases and plans to eventually relax mitigation efforts, QR code is becoming a new tech tool for contact tracing efforts. But it’s not just about the usage of QR code in preventing the spread of the virus, it is now a vital groundbreaking tech tool worldwide. As predicted by experts, QR codes could help businesses move forward even after the pandemic. Thus, the QR code Covid-19 statistics report predicts that QR code usage worldwide will rise in the coming years.
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