A year or so ago you couldn't attend a digital marketing conference without hearing about the supposed rise of QR codes. Everyone was talking about how these codes would cover our world in a connected layer of digital information. Someone in a social media Google+ Group I'm in asked how the QR code was doing so I thought I'd revisit the topic to see how 'the next big thing' is holding up. The resulting post is one part QR code trends and statistics, another part rambling in how I look at trends overall.
Part 1: QR Code Google Trends
When I want to to get a general sense of how something is performing in the world, I almost always turn to Google Trends. Sure it's inexact, but it's a nice, easy to understand, proxy for trends over time.
Even though talk about QR codes didn't fill conference venues until 2011, apparently QR codes have been kicking around the Internet since early 2006. Interest peaked in late 2011 and early 2012, but this is a trend line that seems to be fading faster than neon spandex.
Why the drop? In my opinion it's one part security threat, another part time cost. As it turns out the malicious forces that will figured out how to turn a simple scan into fake permissions and even unauthorized payments. The other, perhaps more important issue with QR codes is that fact that they're not quite as easy as everyone makes them out to be. When Android, Apple, and Blackberry refused to build a QR code reader into their phones they essentially marginalized the longterm vitality of the QR code. Sure, you can download an app, but for what? Unless you're looking for a house or really into Calvin Klein QR codes that turn into racy videos, it's very rarely worth the effort.
When it comes to english specific terms I usually see a strong concentration of English speaking countries. Instead we see a more interesting global distribution.
Concentrated Global Interest
Look at that concentration in Hong Kong, where smartphone penetration was ranked second in the world by Wired in December of 2011.
Google's Related terms section sometimes reveals a nougat of information. In this case the related search terms are extremely telling. See how interest in generating QR codes is more than 2x more prevalent than searches relating to consuming QR codes? To me that means marketers want QR codes to work a lot more than consumers actually want QR codes.
More QR Code Statistics For Good Measure
I end my rant here, but before I close I want to add a few links to more complete statistics. I wasn't able to find much dated 2013 so these sources were most likely created as QR codes peaked, but they may still provide interesting insight for interested parties.
- This article claims that a majority of QR Code scans occur at home as people interact with magazines and advertisements.
- According to this infographic, most QR codes are seen on product packaging and scanned on iPhones.
- You'll be frustrated to know that FactBrowser (a user generated fact database that doesn't require people to cite active sources) holds exactly contradictory information about the QR code. One addition says '69% of smartphone owners that scan ScanLife's mobile barcodes are male'. Another claims 'Females lead males in QR code scanning by a wide margin – 68% to 32%.' Guess we'll never know.
- What's any report these days without Pinterest? Fortunately most of these image-based statistics do cite their source.
- A nice slideshare revealing some interesting QR code trends.
Last but not least, an infographic from Archrival. Note that the conversation about QR codes on their site is quite interesting.