While QR codes are certainly not new on the scene, they are seeing a sort of renaissance when it comes to consumer usage in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing and personal sanitary measures at an all-time high, these tiny squares of information are proving to be useful. They have been popping up in restaurants, bars, in retail stores, and on many consumer products. If you aren’t already up to speed with how to create, implement, and leverage their potential, now is the time to study up.
QR (quick-response) codes date back to 1994 and were originally adopted by the automobile industry as a way to improve their management practices and work more efficiently. It wasn’t until the 2000s that QR codes were well known and used more widely, primarily by large companies. These codes differ from the barcode because they hold information both vertically and horizontally, meaning they can contain more information and have greater versatility. Barcodes, on the other hand, hold information horizontally, and while this is useful at the grocery store, they are much more limited in use.
As smartphones became the norm in the 2000s, apps were developed to read QR codes, and it was at this point that they became a tool that everyday consumers could use. Nowadays, our phone’s camera will automatically scan a QR code but before this update, users would have to download a specific QR code app.
Falling into the Background
While QR codes proved to be a valuable tool in supply chain management and many other industries, they never really reached remarkable heights with everyday consumers. They may be seen or used in passing, but they certainly never became the norm or even a common occurrence. This begs the question: had society just not realized their true potential?
COVID-19 and the QR Code Comeback
The world has seen drastic changes since COVID-19 essentially shut everything down in March of 2020. As people continue to adapt to whatever their ‘new normal’ may be, one aspect, in particular, has emerged from the background to become a lifesaver in this new contactless society: QR codes. With sanitary precautions at an all-time high and consumers looking to avoid contact wherever possible while also trying to ease back into some sort of routine, QR codes have bridged the gap.
Dining out is slowly but surely being reintroduced at a restricted capacity in most places. No more are the menus that are mindlessly transferred from person to person, but laminated or one-time use printed QR codes to pull up menus and allow consumers to order without ever having to exchange hands with wait staff or another customer. This technology has been around for decades but never fit well into the consumer experience. Not only are QR codes reducing the need for elements like printed menus, but they are eliminating a lot of single-use waste. Our restaurant clients have experienced the success of this tool first hand, gone are the days of bulky multi-paged menus, the ease of viewing everything from a phone seems to be here to stay.
As we see the application of QR codes continue to grow from outside supply chain management and further into the consumer-facing market, it’s clear that we’re just now tapping into their potential. Hospitals, car dealerships, and countless marketing campaigns are already working to push this trend forward. Now that their potential is beginning to be recognized, the question is: what’s next for QR codes?
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About The Author
Ellen Fallon, Marketing & Account Supervisor at Discover Mediaworks is a 2019 University of Wisconsin – La Crosse Graduate. Her initial role as a Marketing Coordinator quickly evolved to one that is greatly hands on with both client and internal brand projects. From copywriting, to project management, and PR and social media she knows that adaptability is the name of the game when it comes to marketing.