As smartphones exploded in popularity during the early 2010s, QR codes began cropping up everywhere. Consumers finally had a means of interacting and accessing the black and white squares by downloading an app on their phone to scan the codes. Companies of all sizes and industries jumped to use QR codes in marketing campaigns, but the information their codes provided was often mediocre at best. Therefore, the once-promising technology seemingly disappeared just as quickly as it emerged.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic affected our way of life in 2020, the QR code began experiencing a second wave of adoption by businesses and consumers. What spurred this sudden interest in the technology, and how will we use QR codes going forward? Keep reading to find out.
Why the Resurgence?
There are a few reasons why QR codes are experiencing a resurgence in popularity and adoption. The main reason is that QR codes offer organizations the ability to communicate information to the public hands-free. The contactless nature of the technology became important and relevant once the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Let’s take a look at some of the critical factors that have propelled the QR code to its current, sky-high status.
Native QR Code Scanning Smartphones
The simplified scanning process has also contributed to the popularity of the QR code. In the early 2010s, when the technology first reached consumers, interacting with a QR code was cumbersome and provided little value. First, users would have to download a specially designed app that was capable of scanning the code. Users would then open the app and scan the code, which would then take them to the intended destination. The information provided was usually not interesting or beneficial to the user because businesses did not know how to use the technology to the best of their ability. Therefore, consumers began deleting QR code scanning apps off their smartphones as they were deemed a waste of space.
Now, however, consumers no longer need an app designed to scan the codes. Instead, the new smartphones allow individuals to simply open up their smartphone’s camera and scan the code to take them to the destination. Furthermore, businesses are now implementing QR codes for a purpose, instead of being a marketing gimmick. Thus, consumers experience the benefit of the technology and are adopting it.
Contactless interactions are vital during a pandemic when society needs to minimize the spread of germs and limit exposure from one person to the next. Therefore, businesses of all varieties are implementing QR codes so customers have fewer objects to touch where the virus can easily be spread. Restaurants have demonstrated the effectiveness of QR codes. For example, restaurants across the United States have replaced physical menus for QR codes that are often taped to the table or placed in sign holders for diners to scan. Patrons simply scan the QR code with their phone camera, which takes them to the company’s menu. This method successfully eliminates the need to touch communal menus, which easily harbor germs and can spread the COVID virus.
Future of QR Codes
Now that the technology is widely used in the United States, what is the next frontier for the QR code? Some companies have used the technology for an efficient way for attendees at an event to register, while doctors’ offices are having patients check into their appointment by scanning the code. However, what about more innovative ways to use the technology?
Another use-case for QR codes that is particularly popular outside of the United States is payment. For example, instead of using cash or credit cards, consumers in China commonly pay by scanning a QR code. It does not matter if they are checking out at a global department chain, a local grocery store, or a street vendor; most businesses accept the form of payment. Consumers frequently pay through the apps WeChat Pay or Alipay, the latter owned by Alibaba. The United States has been slow to adopt contactless payment, but this is a massive opportunity for QR Codes to become a staple in the United States, long after the pandemic is over.
QR Codes are proving useful in the healthcare industry. When patients are in a hospital, they are frequently given wristbands to wear that identifies the individual. QR codes are starting to be added to these wristbands for the function of patient identification management. The information linked to the QR code can identify the patient and include personal details like age, height, and weight, as well as their room number, medical history, when they were admitted to the hospital, and more. This saves hospital employees time since all the information is in a central place, cuts down on paper waste, and provides an additional security level against misidentifying someone.
Companies are now linking augmented reality to QR codes, which will encourage users to adopt both technologies. This works by creating a QR code that also has an AR marker built into it. Users simply have to scan the QR code like normal, and the code will link to the AR features. Thus, removing the need for users to download a specially designed app to access the AR capabilities. This technology can enhance various settings, including making museum exhibits come to life, having textbooks become interactive, and visually engaging fans for a new album. For more information on how businesses are using augmented reality to enhance customer experiences, check out our blog here.
The rise, fall, and rise of the QR code is an interesting story. The fate of the black and white squares could have been very different if the world did not require touch-free alternatives for communicating information, such as restaurant menus, marketing collateral, product details, and more. However, QR codes were able to fill the need quickly, and it proved fruitful. The future of the technology depends if people continue to use QR codes post-pandemic and if new use-cases continue to be created. How do you see QR codes being used in the future? Let us know in the comments below.
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