Are QR codes the Comeback Kid of 2020's? 10 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes

QR codes have been around since the early '90s, but only with the widespread adoption of smartphones and barcode-scanning apps have customers been able to easily access QR codes in significant numbers.



According to comScore, 20.1 million mobile phone owners in the U.S. used their devices to scan a QR code in the three-month average period ending October 2011. In the big scheme of things, this isn’t a large number. However, the number of people using QR codes is expected to grow.


Will QR codes reach widespread public consciousness, or are they destined to be a quirky aside for mainstream promotional campaigns? The trend towards increasingly complex personal technology suggests that the potential is there, but the question remains whether marketers will fully exploit the opportunities QR codes have to offer.


So, what can marketers do to take customers out of their comfort zones and try something new? The ability to access information won’t drive customers to a product’s site unless there’s a reason for them to do so. Below are some of the most creative, fun and interesting examples of QR code marketing that show QR codes have the potential to enrich the product experience and offer the customer real value.

  • 1. Reinventing the Shopping Experience Global supermarket giant Tesco solved the problem of enticing hard-working, time-strapped Koreans into its stores by bringing the shopping experience to them, with virtual stores based in subways and metro stations. Shoppers were encouraged to browse life-like images of supermarket shelves with their smartphones and scan the QR codes on products to add them to their shopping carts, all whilst waiting for the metro. Their purchases would then be delivered to them at home, with no need to carry heavy bags.

  • 2. Enhancing the User Experience Some savvy museums and art galleries have been quick to realize the potential in QR codes for enhancing user experiences. Art galleries such as The Cleveland Museum of Art place QR codes next to exhibits to direct visitors to online or audio tours, or to provide more in-depth information.

  • 3. Streamlining the Customer’s Visit Stores like Starbucks are using QR codes to streamline the way they interact with customers. Rather than waiting in a long line to pay, customers can now integrate their pre-loaded card and their phone app to pay more quickly, as well as learn more about the products and stores.

  • 4. Noting the Things You Enjoy In a restaurant and enjoying your wine? Rather than scribbling the name of the winery on a napkin, restaurant-goers can now scan QR code wine labels to find out more about the vineyard, the grape, and ordering details.

  • 5. Give Customers Something They Want Mountain Dew and Taco Bell partnered on a promotion in which customers scanned QR codes on drink cups to get free music downloads. They knew their customers: younger people interested in popular culture. The campaign earned the companies over 200,000 downloads.

  • 6. Providing Real-Time Information QR codes can take customers to real-time updates anywhere where there is a constant flow of information, for instance, train stations, bus stops, department store sales, live events, restaurant specials or airline booking. Frankfurt, Germany recently introduced smart posters in train carriages, which provided commuters with travel information, transport connections, special events and points of interest, as well as special offers for travel card holders.

  • 7. Initiate Share-worthy Competitions Verizon recently ran a successful campaign that increased sales by an incredible 200%. In-store customers scanned a QR code that shared their competition entries on Facebook. If a friend used that link to buy a Verizon mobile, the original customer would win a smartphone. Verizon saw a $35,000 return on a $1,000 investment, plus brand awareness on 25,000 new Facebook profiles.

  • 8. Personalized Gift Giving This past holiday season, retailer JCPenney allowed customers to add a personal touch to their gifts. When you purchased a gift from any JCPenney store, you received a "Santa Tag" with an accompanying QR code. By scanning the code, the giver could record a personalized voice message for the recipient. The the giver stuck the code on the package like a gift card.

  • 9. Help Your Customers Grow Their Businesses Google identified over 100,000 businesses in the U.S. as "Favorite Places on Google," based on Google users' interactions with local business listings. Each business received a window decal with a unique QR code, which passersby could scan to find information about that business, read reviews, star the business as their favorite and much more.

  • 10. Share Modern Day Mixtapes If you would like to convey a musical message to your special someone, create a modern day mixtape through Spotify. After creating a special playlist on Spotify, send that special person a greeting card with the QR code, the scan of which leads directly to the mix.