We at Research Access are fascinated by QR codes, and thus we are always on the lookout for new data on those little guys. As luck would have it, our friends at market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey just conducted a really interesting investigation of consumer knowledge of and attitudes toward QR codes.
I had a chance to speak with CMB Senior Consultant Jeff McKenna about the study.
Dana Stanley: Why did you decide to do a study about QR codes?
Jeff McKenna: Each quarter we conduct a CMB Consumer Pulse study so we can stay up-to-date with trends and issues we see going on that may be affecting our clients. Last year, for instance, we conducted a study on the growing use of smartphones in retail stores, foretelling the rise of mobile apps to make comparison shopping easier, such as Amazon’s Price Check App. The next technology we wanted to understand is the QR code. We’ve started to see those little boxes everywhere and often wondered if people actually use them, and for what reason they do. They also strike us as an ideal way to engage with consumers, giving marketers a direct line to communicate and deliver useful information.
Dana Stanley: Tell us about how the study was conducted.
Jeff McKenna: We conducted an online interview among nearly 1,500 US adults at the end of October. The series of questions about QR codes were part of a broader set of questions we ask in our quarterly Consumer Pulse, exploring topics from healthcare and financial services to technology and entertainment. And since this research cuts across many topic areas, we balance the sample to be representative of the US population in terms of age, gender and income. We also worked with iModerate Research Technologies to conduct 20 one-on-one conversations which adds color to the quantitative.
Dana Stanley: As much as I love QR codes, it seems to me they are still something that mostly marketers and researchers know about, but John and Jane Q. Public might find them confusing. What did your study show?
Jeff McKenna: That’s a great point. We find the general public to be less knowledgeable about them. In fact, only 21 percent of adults know the term “Quick Response code” or “QR code” (when asked if they’ve heard the term). On the other hand, 81 percent of adults recognize them by sight; so they are not unnoticed. Additionally, half of smartphone owners tell us that they have scanned a QR code. This tells us that a thorough understanding of QR codes is not a prerequisite for usage and application. This is often the case when it comes to new technology, and although QR codes themselves have been around for nearly two decades, it’s still very early for American consumers.
Dana Stanley: What were some of the findings that surprised you?
Jeff McKenna: Building on the previous point, we expected confusion to be more common. In that regard, the fact that half of smartphone owners told us they have scanned a QR code was a surprise. Even more surprising, 70 percent of the people who scanned a QR code found it to be easy to do. This tells us that wider acceptance of the technology is not hindered by complexity or poor functionality.
Instead, we find a sizeable share of people using QR codes for a specific need. On the one hand, 46 percent said they scanned a QR code because they were “curious”; but that still leaves a majority of consumers scanning with a clear purpose in mind. The reasons ranged from getting more information and access to exclusive content to receiving a discount and making a purchase.
Dana Stanley: What were some of the top take-aways for marketers?
Jeff McKenna: Clearly, marketers should remember the point that nearly one-in-five of people who scanned a QR code ended up making a purchase based on the information they received. A sizable (and we expect growing) share of consumers are relying on QR code scanning to assist and improve the purchase process.
As I mentioned earlier, the curiosity factor wears off, marketers need to focus on the specific purpose people have when scanning a QR code. Of greatest interest in our research, was the opportunity to receive discounts, coupons, or free items; therefore, crafting the right offer for the situation will be important for marketers. Next on the list of needs is “gaining information” – and again, marketers must be aware of the situation where consumers will be engaging through QR codes. On this point, we find that 35 percent of people scanned a QR code from a magazine or newspaper. The next most common source is produce packaging (18 percent scanned in this manner). Marketers need to tailor the information and offers to each of these unique situations.
Dana Stanley: How can people get a copy of your study?
Jeff McKenna: They can check out a short video here (Editor’s Note: the video is embedded in this post).
Scan the QR code or click on the link to download the report. Or go directly to the report here.
Dana Stanley: Great stuff, Jeff. Thanks for your time, and thanks for conducting this study.