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More than 3m UK consumers used their smartphone to scan QR codes in Q2, according to new data from a comScore survey of 15,000 consumers.

This equates to 11.4% of the total smartphone audience and represents a year-on-year growth of 43%.

But the data suggests that other European nations have actually been quicker on the uptake than the UK. For example, 18.6% of German smartphone owners scanned a QR code in Q2, a YoY growth of 128%.

While in Spain 16% of users have used the technology, up a massive 218% from the same period last year.

The study claims that across the EU5 more than 17m smartphone owners have scanned a QR code.

QR codes are now common in outdoor marketing campaigns and in magazines, so it seems likely that 1 in 10 UK smartphone owners has scanned one of the codes.

However, in an online survey carried out with TolunaQuick in October 2011 we found that 19% of all UK consumers had scanned a QR code. You need to take into account that those completing an online survey are likely to be tech-savvy, but it’s still surprising that comScore’s total is so much lower a year later.

To add further fuel to the debate, a recent CBS Outdoor study found that 13% of all Europeans - including those without smartphones - had scanned an outdoor QR code.

When you narrow this down to just smartphone owners, which across the EU5 is 51.3% of the population (according to comScore), then you would expect the number who had scanned a QR code to at least double to 26%.

This makes it difficult to put an exact figure on how many smartphone owners have scanned a QR code, other than to say it is likely to be between 10% and 25%.

Use of QR codes

ComScore also looked at the most popular reasons for scanning QR codes. It found that 71.7% of scans are carried out to retrieve product information, while the second most popular reason is to access event information (31.8%).

David Moth

Published 20 September, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Mark S

Let's be honest, if the report doesn't even include the sample size it's not a proper report, and has probably been commissioned by one of the many companies still desperate to try and make QR codes appear relevant.

almost 4 years ago

Alec Cochrane

Alec Cochrane, Head of Optimisation at Blue Latitude

I'm not sure you can dismiss the findings because the sample size is small. All of ComScores sample sizes are small, but they're extrapolated upwards based on audience demographics in the same way that television audiences are calculated. As long as they are consistent in their measurement then you can pay attention to the trends rather than the raw numbers (can you tell I'm an Analytics man?).

I refuse to believe, however, that only 30% of people have listened to music on a smartphone in the UK. Anyone who has been on any sort of public transport must have heard the tinny sound of some teenagers smart phone playing through the awful built-in speaker or played too loudly through headphones.

almost 4 years ago

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Visualead

For those who claim the QR Code is passé this post should should help shed some light in the issue.
There are still two major obstacles standing on the way of QR Code technology going mainstream.
1. Companies MUST stop misusing them. Sending people to sites that are not mobile enabled or to pointless destinations hurts the QR Codes reputation but causes more damage to the companies who waste users time.
2. QR Codes must get with the times and be designed to interact with humans. No one likes to interact with something that looks like it jumped off a space invaders screen from 1980.
QR Codes were originally designed to talk to machines, it's time to design them to talk to people.
The Visualead team.

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Mark and Alec, comScore got in touch to say the sample size was 15,000 people, which is obviously very robust.

@Alec, where did the stat about 30% of people listening to music on their smartphone come from?

almost 4 years ago

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Jamil Kassam, Global eTrade Marketing Manager at Philips

Are you aware that the QR code placed below the heading of this article goes to a 'Page Not Found' error page?

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Jamil, I am. It is just an old QR code image that I happened to have saved on my desktop.

almost 4 years ago

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Jamil Kassam, Global eTrade Marketing Manager at Philips

:)

almost 4 years ago

Alec Cochrane

Alec Cochrane, Head of Optimisation at Blue Latitude

@ David - in the table above on mobile benchmark data for the European Market the bottom line is 'listening to music'. If only 58.8% of people have smartphones then 30.6% is half of those people (you don't really get music on non-smartphones). Even so I'm quite surprised that people buy expensive phones with huge memories that were designed to store music originally (then video later) and then don't use that functionality.

You only have to look as far as the first iPhone - it was designed so that people didn't have to carry an iPod and a phone at the same time.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Jamil @David I've replaced it with a better one...

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Alec, whoops, totally missed that line on the chart ;)

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Alec That is a surprising figure. One of the things that made me buy the iPhone in the first place was the iPod.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Visualead I agree - the misuse of QR must have harmed adoption.

Here are some examples: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8669-11-dubious-uses-of-qr-codes

I do think they may have a use as an in-store prompt to view reviews, offers and product details as multichannel retailers like Debenhams, M&S and House of Fraser have released apps with barcode/QR scanners AND use QR in stores.

almost 4 years ago

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Nadine

One of the key issues with QR codes is usability, there have been a number of times when I've spent longer trying to scan a code than it would have taken to type the URL in. I've also seen them used with bad judgement such as underground on tube platforms where a mobile signal was non existent?!

QR codes are viewed by many as a way to access online content but if we focus on using them as a different channel and then consider the audience that are likely to use them like we would any other channel we may see considerably better results. Simple put target the right audience with the right medium.

almost 4 years ago

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Jamil Kassam, Global eTrade Marketing Manager at Philips

@Graham - Quality goal!!

almost 4 years ago

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Paul Fleming

@visualead - I completely agree with the design issue with QR Codes. I have researched the so called artistic QR codes and tbh they are not much better.

However, if it looked amazing, would that really make much difference? I think the first point you made is so much more of an issue. The biggest problem with QR codes is that you never really know where it is going to take you.

almost 4 years ago

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Aberfield

It's not how many people have accessed info via QR codes that's important, but a) how many are using QR codes on a frequent basis and b) what people have done with information/offers they've obtained via QR codes, eg has downloading a coupon actually led to a purchase? Without that information, the stats are rather meaningless.

Only if QR codes are influencing behaviours will they have a future.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Aberfield There are some examples of QR campaigns with stats here: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/9777-six-qr-code-campaigns-that-actually-worked

almost 4 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

One thing you need to take note of is that the study is looking at how many people 'have scanned A QR code' It doesn't look at frequency, the people who have may have only done it once, but typed a URL into their smartphone 1000 times.

I wonder how many people have just tried it out to give it a go and not actually regularly used it. It is like saying 50% of people ‘use myspace’ when it should be 50% ‘have used myspace at least once in the past 5 years’

We’ve used QR codes on material that lends itself to them (i.e. not just because it’s the next big thing) but there is always low usage numbers. Perhaps good 4G coverage across the UK would make the experience less clunky

almost 4 years ago

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Uriel

Another cool way to engage customers is using Visual QR Codes with a service such as www.visualead.com. It lets you turn any image into a QR Code making your point of contact for offline to online engagement more communicative and effective, leading to higher CTR

almost 4 years ago

James Wheeler

James Wheeler, Head of Digital Production at Cheil Europe

Hi, thanks for the post @David Has anyone seen UK specific demographic data on QR code usage? Can't find it anywhere.

almost 4 years ago

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Giles Bailey

For busy brand managers or digital strategists, is it yet time to make QR a core part of any digital strategy or how long does it remain an interesting add-on versus other and the next new technology ? The longer it languishes, the more likely it is to be overtaken.

almost 4 years ago

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Terence Challenger, Director at SapientNitro

I'm pretty sure that in the UK, smartphones still do not have scanning software pre-loaded to them straight out of the box. This obviously represents a big stumbling block for adoption of QR codes.
Has anyone seen any data around pre-loaded software vs vols downloading scanning apps?

almost 4 years ago

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Mike Mayhew

@magnus: Blackberry have a preloaded QR reader since 2008, initially under BBM but since 2010 (BBM 4.4 onwards)under the BB "App World" -> BB Menu -> Scan a Barcode. Apple cut the pre-installed QR reader on iphone 5 when they brought the release date forward.

Agree it would be better if they all just pre-loaded one!

almost 4 years ago

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Terence Challenger, Director at SapientNitro

@Mike: Thanks for the info, good to know. iP5 seems to have quite a bit cut i.e. NFC.

almost 4 years ago

Jamie Wonnacott

Jamie Wonnacott, New Vision Media

I can honestly say I've never used a QR code and would be quite unlikely due to the lack of information about what the code links to.
I had an interesting situation last week however where somebody sent me a multimedia message with a QR image. I installed a QR reader but was unable to read the code from the image alone.
A further issue I noticed was the number of permissions the QR App required - far more than I was happy to accept under normal operation. The App has therefore been uninstalled.

over 2 years ago

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