We recently published the results of a survey of US consumers which found that 64% don't know what QR codes are. Now we've repeated the survey for UK consumers. 

According to a survey of 1,500 UK consumers conducted online using TolunaQuick, 31% knew what QR codes were or what they are for, and 19% had scanned one on their mobiles. 

Here are a few highlights from the survey...

Do people know what a QR code is? 

We showed the QR code image shown above to the survey respondents and asked if they knew what it was.

This was an open question, so we had a variety of responses.

I've been relatively generous, counting responses like 'barcode', 'a symbol for scanning with a mobile' as, even if they couldn't identify it by name, they knew its purpose. 

31% knew what the it was, with just under 10% able to correctly identify it as a QR code, 12% used the word barcode to describe it, while others knew it was something to be scanned by a mobile. 

How many have scanned a QR code? 

Overall, 19% of respondents had scanned a QR code on their mobile, compared with 11% for the US survey

The survey was conducted online, which suggests that respondents are more tech-savvy, so this figure may be higher than it would be if conducted offline. 

The results vary between age groups. 32% of 18 to 34 year olds had scanned a QR code, 15.5% of the 35 to 54 age group, and just 7% of over 55s. 

Do people know what QR codes are for? 

36% of respondents know what QR codes are for, the same percentage as in the US study. 

Awareness was much higher in the 18 to 34 age group (50%) compared to 33% for 35 to 54s, and 21% for over 55s. 

What would make people scan a QR code?

42% would scan a QR code in order to access a discount voucher,  23% out of curiosity, and 21% to find out more about the product advertised. 

On the flip side, 47% said they would be deterred from scanning a QR code because their mobile phone didn't have this capability. In some cases, this may be less about the features on their phones, but because of the need to download an app first. 

Having to download a QR reader app would deter 27% of respondents, while 17% said the process was too time-consuming. 

Other responses included security concerns, lack of internet connection, while others simply didn't see the point. 


Having seen other surveys on QR codes, the results are more or less as expected. Awareness and use is low, but if 19% of consumers have scanned a QR code, then this is still a significant proportion for marketers to target. 

There are clearly challenges to overcome, in terms of awareness and ease of use, while rival mobile response mechanisms, such as Blippar's augmented reality app, offer more of a wow factor. 

The user experience can be improved as well. The MI5 example in this recent post by Tim Dunn shows that some firms are not planning campaigns well enough.

There is little point in getting people to scan your QR code if they are not likely to have wifi or a 3G signal at the location (I have seen QR codes on the Tube), if there is no compelling reason to scan, and if the landing page has not been optimised for mobile users, as in this MI5 example: 

However, there have been some very creative and valuable uses of QR, such as the use of codes on Radisson Edwardian's menus. 

QR campaigns can produce great results too. When Tesco used posters of supermarket shelves complete with QR codes in Korea, the result was that more than 10,000 people scanned the QR codes, new customer registrations rose by 76%, and online sales were up by 130%.

There are regional factors here which aided the success of the campaign. For one, the underground has wi-fi so no connection issues. Also, many mobiles in Korea have built in QR readers, which removes one huge barrier from the whole process. 

Graham Charlton

Published 6 October, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (11)

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I must admit I am the one with very negative attitude towards the QR codes. First, the user experience is very tiring one:

1. download scanning app
2. find ad with QR code
3. take your mobile device out
4. give unlock code
5. select the app from menu
6. point to the QR code
7. Uppps...shake
8. Re-point to QR code
9. You have a web link!
10. you land on non-mobile optimized web site
11. damn...

Alternative experience:

1. memorize the URL from the ad or use RFID to store it
2. you're done

When it comes to these study results I would not only challenge the online study skew but consider other factors too. If only 10% can name the QR code correctly, how can 19% scan? I mean, did these 9% who couldn't name the QR just accidentally download the app, launch it and use i or what? For me this result sounds unrealistic...sorry.

I accept that when all conditions are ideal, you may get moderate response, but undoubtfully you get better results some other way. If you disagree, I recommend to stand one day next to QR poster and count how many people go through the hassle :)

almost 7 years ago


Tom Albrighton, Digital and SEO copywriter at ABC Copywriting

A lot of the intended uses for QR seem to be for 'out and about' situations, which does make success reliant on network coverage, as you say - and the willingness of people to engage in situations where they might be doing something else. While QR is a roaming medium, a lot of the target destinations are places for leisurely browsing - so there's a slight discontinuity in terms of the user experience.

One of the best uses I've seen is editorial rather than commercial, and probably more home-based than roaming-based. The PlayStation magazine PSM3 uses QR codes to link to resources related to its print articles - for example, you can read a review of a game, then QR through to some online footage of the gameplay. That adds real value and is a lot better than trying to remember a YouTube or Bit.ly URL.

I guess that experience would be OK with a smartphone, but personally I'd be more likely to do it with my iPad, at home, with a decent connection and a big screen for viewing.

With some of the ads, I think there's a problem with diffusing or confusing the target user reaction across different media. Ideally, the ad itself should be able to generate the desired response - normally, get someone to try a product. Or, if you're directing traffic to a website, then the website should complete the process by closing the sale or whatever.

While QR is new and exciting, there's a danger of thinking that getting people to scan a QR constitutes some sort of closure or success - but it ain't necessarily so.

If you're going to hand off your audience to another channel, you need to be sure that channel will interest and engage them more than wherever they start out - always assuming they're willing to follow you in the first place.

almost 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@ Jussi to explain the stats. The survey showed an image of a QR code and asked people if they knew what it was. While only 10% named, many others knew it as a mobile barcode, code, response code, or knew what it was for. The 31% figure includes those responses.

Also, just because someone called it a mobile barcode or described it's purpose, that doesn't mean they haven't heard the term QR code.

I think it's more sigmificant that people know what it is for than to be able to name it.

The results also broadly correlate with other QR consumer surveys, such as the one I linked to in the opening paragraph.

I do agree that the process of scanning codes is a chore, and something which is a barrier to adoption. Its also worth providing other response mechanisms in ads such as SMS or URLs.

almost 7 years ago



It would be interesting to know the demographic of the survey sample. Also take a look at the above link, you might find it interesting.


almost 7 years ago



Memorising a URL is all you have to do Jussi? Damn! And all this time I'd been typing them into my computer. I feel so foolish...

almost 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@ John:

43% male, 57% female

18-34: 32.53% 35-54: 45.54% 55+ 21.93%

I'll add some income data later.

almost 7 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy Practice at Connective DX

Imagine if the same headline ran for email -- that 19% of the UK had received an email message.

Only one? Perhaps more. Were these good experiences or dead ends? Campaign makers, or breakers.

QRs can be useful -- but they are more insecure, inscrutable, and industrial that I'd like. So, QR's are not the tool at the top of my digital work bag.

I've seen research that in Asia which is more adapted to QR's that consumers who use QRs, do so at a rate of around one per month. That seems like a silver bullet.

almost 7 years ago




One of the biggest problems right now regarding QR codes is the lack of understanding that 'so called' marketing companies have. They sign clients up to an overpriced, over-hyped service and don't deliver! They don't deliver because they don't understand and in 99.9% of the time point their clients QR code at a non-mobile optimized site which has no benefit to the client or end user!

almost 7 years ago


Dave Marutiak

While it's not a scientifically rigorous approach to the survey, the basic growth in barcode scanning in the UK is not in doubt. The UK ranks only behind North America and Spain for generating barcode scans on the ScanLife network (which gets traffic from over 100 countries and processes millions of scans monthly). I expect to see continued growth based on the trend over the last 6 months, and our next update to our quarterly Market Trends report should be out soon to validate that view. We published some London specific statistics in the recent Mobile Commerce conference, showing how over 200 brands a month are already getting between 100 and 10,000 scans from their advertising.

almost 7 years ago


qr code generator

Jussi I do all these operations in a few seconds.. Scanning a qr code is now, what was in 2001 tweet or retweet.. Changes happens ;) QR codes are the future.

almost 7 years ago


qr code tracking

nice information i get , its very helpful

over 6 years ago

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