QR codes, otherwise known as quick response codes, are the preeminent open standardfor a growing category of graphical 2D (two-dimensional) codes that are increasingly beingutilized by marketers
across various industries to inform and engage with digitally savvy consumeraudiences around the globe.
QR codes can be quickly read with camera-equipped mobile phones (usually smartphones)loaded with the proper code-reading software.
Once read, data embedded in the QR codes caninstruct the phone to automatically execute a number of tasks, such as download data from the codeitself, retrieve a mobile Web page or make the request from a remote server to download a video. Asa result,
QR and 2D codes are generally used for a variety of applications, from advertisingand lead generation to ticketing and couponing.
First appearing in Japan in the mid-1990’s, QR codes have since been widely adopted in thehistorically advanced mobile market for a variety of commercial uses. Although QR code adoptionhas traditionally not been as robust outside of Japan and Asia, due to recent advances in mobileinfrastructure and handsets in the American market, a new wave of commercial interest in 2D codeshas taken hold in the U.S. In line with this,
a growing number of marketers ranging from CalvinKlein and Chevy to Starbucks and Unilever have been experimenting with QR and 2D codecampaigns within the past year.
While QR codes are the most widely adopted open standard for 2D codes globally, in theU.S., several proprietary 2D code standards are being introduced
and promoted by their parentcorporations, including Microsoft Tag from Microsoft and EZcode from Scanbuy. Compared to QRcodes, proprietary codes hold both distinct advantages and disadvantages.
In our view, the positive alignment of four key factors – consumer value perception,technological readiness, widespread publisher support and a unied 2D code standard –is needed for successful deep adoption of QR/2D codes in the American market.
While weassess the current environment for consumer value perception and widespread publisher supportas positive in the U.S., we see further progress is needed on the tech readiness and unied 2D codestandard fronts, which we see as neutral and negative, respectively.QR codes, and the overall category of 2D codes, have proven their value in Japan but are still anascent and promising technology in America that, if adopted in earnest, would provide marketers witha novel channel for bridging online and ofine behavior for consumer engagement. As the technology’sstory continues to unfold in the U.S.,
we recommend in-market experimentation through alimited “test and learn” approach that leverages other technologies, such as SMS andmobile Web, and favors the open QR code standard over proprietary ones.