Retailers prepare for 'the second coming of QR codes'
About 1.3 billion mobile QR code coupons are estimated to have been redeemed last year, and that number is expected to rise to 5.3 billion by 2022, according to a new study from Juniper Research.
Those more than 5 billion QR code coupons are expected to be redeemed by more than 1 billion mobile devices, the latter estimate being an increase to previous expectations, largely due to the fact that Apple has added a built-n QR code scanner to its mobile devices, Juniper said.
The research report also found that almost 4 billion mobile-enabled loyalty cards will be active by 2022, twice the number of such loyalty cards that were available in 2017.
Juniper described the expected increase as "the second coming of QR codes," a statement that comes half a year after a story in Wired declared pretty much the same thing, although not before pointing out how badly an earlier generation of QR code promotions fizzled.
The problems with early QR codes varied — they may have been overused by marketers, and not promoted the right way in some cases, but there were technology shortcomings, too, as consumers were forced to download special scanner apps to use them. Performance of those apps varied, and ultimately a QR code scanner app was capable of getting lost among dozens of other apps on a user's smartphone, never readily available right when it was needed.
Marketing efforts might be getting better, but so is the technology. For example, as Juniper pointed out, Apple began to include QR code reader functionality as part of the camera application on iPhones, making it easier to find and use. That move alone drove Juniper to increase its mobile coupon forecasts from previous estimates.
Research author Lauren Foye stated in Juniper's press release announcing the research, "Apple's addition of QR code reading facilities directly addresses a major barrier for use in Western markets. The lack of an in-built reader had been a hindrance, with consumers needing to download a separate QR code scanner app."
According to Juniper, retailers are in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the surging QR code market and increasingly receptive user base. For example, Target, Walmart and others were part of a recent in-store, QR code-driven augmented reality treasure hunt promotion tied into "The Last Jedi." Starbucks has had success with QR code-based promotions as well, and some retailers, including Target, also have QR code-based payments systems that accelerate payment at checkout.
For retailers who gave up on QR codes once, it may be time to revisit them.