What are QR codes used for?

QR codes have been around for nearly 30 years and with billions of people now having smart phones in their pockets, they are becoming more relevant by the day.

A smartphone is used to scan the QR code, which converts the scanned code into a destination, such as the URL for a website.  This means that a user can scan the code and it pops open a specific page on the company website, saving the user from having to manually type in the URL and avoid any typos.

QR Codes have become more common in companies advertising and marketing efforts since it provides a way to access the brands content such as website, files such as menus or product sheets, or allows other desinations such as creation of SMS messages, or composing a new email.  This lowers the barrier for the customer to access these dgiital destinations, thereby increasing the conversion rate and lower the friction between the customer and the products/services.

Most smartphones today can scan QR codes by using the default camera application.  On an iPhone, for example, users can simply open the camera app, scan the QR code by hovering over the code as if going to take a photo, and the camera will pop open a message “Open with Chrome” or “Open with Safari”, which when clicked opens the QR code destination on the users phone.

QR code appear all over, from magazines, signs/billboards, buses, business cards, menus, store fronts, and more.  Simply put, they are an effective way to allow users to connect to the digital content of any company, worldwide.

Below are some of the most common use cases of QR codes today:

 

 

  • Payments

    QR codes can be used to store bank account information or credit card information, or they can be specifically designed to work with particular payment provider applications. There are several trial applications of QR code payments across the world. In developing countries like China, India, Thailand and Bangladesh QR code payment is a very popular and convenient method of making payments.

  • Websites / Virtual Stores

    QR codes have been used to establish "virtual stores", where a gallery of product information and QR codes is presented to the customer, e.g. on a train station wall. The customers scan the QR codes, and the products are delivered to their homes. This use started in South Korea, and Argentina, but is currently expanding globally. Walmart, Procter & Gamble and Woolworths have already adopted the Virtual Store concept.

  • Restaurant Menus

    Restaurants can present a QR code near the front door or at the table allowing guests to view an online menu, or even redirect them to an online ordering website or app, allowing them to order and/or possibly pay for their meal without having to use a cashier or waiter. QR codes can also link to daily or weekly specials that are not printed on the standardized menus, and enable the establishment to update the entire menu without needing to print copies. At table-serve restaurants, QR codes enable guests to order and pay for their meals without a waiter involved – the QR code contains the table number so servers know where to bring the food

  • Joining Wifi Network

    By specifying the SSID, encryption type, password/passphrase, and if the SSID is hidden or not, mobile device users can quickly scan and join networks without having to manually enter the data.

  • Loyalty Programs

    QR codes have been used by various retail outlets that have loyalty programs. Sometimes these programs are accessed with an app that is loaded onto a phone and includes a process triggered by a QR code scan. The QR codes for loyalty programs tend to be found printed on the receipt for a purchase or on the products themselves. Users in these schemes collect award points by scanning a code.

  • Covid-19 Pandemic

    After the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading, QR codes began to be used as a "touchless" system to display information, show menus, or provide updated consumer information, especially in the hospitality industry. Restaurants replaced paper or laminated plastic menus with QR code decals on the table, which opened an online version of the menu. This prevented the need to dispose of single-use paper menus, or institute cleaning and sanitizing procedures for permanent menus after each use.[67] Local television stations have also begun to utilize codes on local newscasts to allow viewers quicker access to stories or information involving the pandemic, including testing and immunization scheduling websites, or for links within stories mentioned in the newscasts overall.

    In several Australian states, patrons are required to scan QR codes at shops, clubs, supermarkets and other service and retail establishments on entry to assist contact tracing. Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and New Zealand use similar systems.

    QR codes are also present on COVID-19 vaccination certificates in places such as Canada, and the EU (EU Digital COVID certificate) where they can be scanned to verify the information on the certificate. More info on QR codes can be found here.