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by Ruchi Gupta / February 6, 2024 / ideas & inspiration

20+ QR Code Usage Statistics for 2024: Facts & Trends

QR codes are everywhere. You may have seen them on product packaging, posters, flyers, magazines, billboards, and even on TV. You may have scanned them to access the information encoded, such as a website, a video, a coupon, or a contact.

But do you know how many QR codes are scanned worldwide and how often this happens? What about their usefulness in marketing? These QR code usage statistics should provide some valuable answers.

Key Findings

  • QR codes were invented in 1994 by the Japanese company Denso Wave for labeling automobile parts.
  • Asian countries, such as China, India, and Vietnam, claim the top positions globally in QR code-based payments.
  • North America and Europe primarily use QR codes for marketing purposes.
  • In the US, the pandemic forced consumers and merchants to increase QR code usage, with an estimated 11 million households scanning QR codes in 2021.
  • Younger generations, such as Gen Z and Millennials, have embraced QR codes more enthusiastically.

About QR Codes 🀫

When were QR codes invented?

QR codes are not new. Known as quick response codes in full, these two-dimensional barcodes entered operation in 1994, thanks to an innovative Japanese company, Denso Wave. Denso Wave intended to use this type of barcode to label automobile parts, but the scope of use cases has grown to include storing a wide range of information, including URLs, text, and contacts [1].

However, QR codes did not become widely available until the early 2000s, when the technology for reading QR codes was developed for smartphones.

In 2000, they were approved as an international standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), making them a truly global standard and helping to increase their popularity.

The ISO certification was a step closer to the wide adoption of QR codes, but it wasn’t until the technology for reading them matured that the world began to see potential in them. For instance, QR code usage gained acceptance in North America and Europe, with 24% of American consumers saying they used QR codes in 2020 [2].

However, it took the COVID-19 pandemic to make QR codes widely popular. Post-pandemic usage data shows that, in the United States alone, about 89 million people used QR codes, 26% more than in 2020. Therefore, it is clear that QR codes became popular during the pandemic [3].

QR codes became popular during the pandemic because:

  • They enabled touchless transactions and contactless interactions for businesses and customers.
  • They helped with health and safety measures, such as contact tracing and vaccine verification.

How much data can a QR code store?

QR codes are merely a series of numbers that, like passwords, can have different meanings. Although QR codes have a standard limit of 4,296 alphanumeric characters per code, or 7,089 numerals, they can be produced in infinite numbers [4].

The largest size of a QR code is 177 x 177 modules (rows and columns), which can store about 15,000 bits of data at the lowest level of error correction [5].

This means there are 2^15000 different ways to arrange the bits in a QR code, which is enormous. Simply put, a standard QR code can store 3 kilobytes of data.

How Many People Use QR Codes? 🤳🏻

The precise number of people who use QR codes worldwide may be difficult to specify because the estimates vary depending on the source and the region. In other words, no single entity can provide accurate estimates of global QR code usage.

One entity, a US-based company, estimated that there were 6.8 million QR code scans globally in the first three months of 2022, a 433% spike compared to 2021 figures [6].

The number is small because it represents the scans recorded in the company’s database. However, the bottom line is that more people use QR codes than ever.

Who Uses QR Codes? 🔳

By gender

It isn’t easy to paint a picture of who uses QR codes globally, but we can use the United States to illustrate what this picture might look like. A survey found that more people identifying as female (57%) used QR codes when compared to males (43%) [7].

By age

Most QR code users fall into the Gen Z, Millennial, and Gen X brackets, with the most significant proportion being people aged between 33 and 46 years. Boomers and traditionalists use QR codes the least [7].

Where Are QR Codes Used? 🕹️

Denso Wave invented QR codes to facilitate the labeling of automotive parts. But the scope has expanded such that QR codes are found:

  • On business cards containing contact details of all kinds
  • On the packaging of smartphones and other gadgets, containing links to apps, the support service for the device you purchased, the product page with information about that gadget, and so on.
  • On TV advertisements, billboards, online ads, and other types of advertisements
  • On menus and signs in restaurants and cafes, providing contactless access to information or services
  • On websites and social media platforms, promoting items and deals or sharing content.
  • On health and safety posters, helping to trace coronavirus exposure and slow the spread of the virus.
  • Directing traffic to resumes or LinkedIn profiles
  • Taking people to a page with more detailed information that wouldn’t easily fit in a print ad.
  • Providing a coupon or discount for a product or services

QR Code Applications 🤖

Where QR codes are used and what objective they achieve are two different concepts. The latter refers to the applications of QR codes, including:

Use in marketing 📊

QR codes in marketing enable brands to promote products, services, or events by linking to social media platforms, coupons, websites, or other content. In countries such as the United States, QR codes are mainly used for marketing purposes, with 45% of shoppers saying they used a marketing-related QR code.

Interestingly, most Americans who interact with marketing-related QR codes are young people aged at least 18 and younger than 30 years old [8].

Use in payments 💳

QR codes are the engine driving contactless payments worldwide. The global QR code payment market was $8.07 billion in 2020 and is expected to hit $35.07 billion in the next decade. At the heart of this revolution are grocery providers and retailers, who are gradually allowing customers to make purchases without much hassle [9].

However, Chinese consumers have embraced QR codes for payment the most (70% of the population), and the closest competitor is India (40% of the population). Interestingly, QR code-based payments dominate Asia so much that Asian countries claim the first seven positions globally [10].

Use in restaurants 👨‍🍳

Restaurateurs have not been left behind in adopting QR code technology to provide better services. In fact, the need for menus in the form of QR codes became urgent during the pandemic. Thankfully, there has been a positive reception for the QR codes in restaurants, with 58% of consumers enjoying the option to use a QR code to pay for food [11].

QR codes are also extensively used to pull up menus at the restaurant, with nearly 50% of consumers doing so when they get the chance. However, the youngest consumers seem to have embraced QR codes more (68%) than older generations.

QR Code Adoption ⚙️

The previous section indicates that QR codes are at different levels of adoption globally, but Asia seems to be ahead. However, it is also clear that the technology is adopted for varying reasons.

Overall, China tops the charts in terms of adoption, with over half of Chinese consumers scanning QR codes several times per week for several reasons. In the US, the pandemic forced consumers and merchants to increase QR code usage, with about 11 million households scanning QR codes in 2021 [11].

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