QR Codes in Retail: Use Cases, Examples & Innovations

January 11, 2024
5 min read

Three decades since their inception, QR Code usage has seen a significant uptick. As the retail marketing landscape undergoes transformations, astute retailers are incorporating QR Codes to provide customers with in-store experiences that echo the convenience, engagement, and control they relish online.

What purposes do QR Codes serve in the retail sector?

In both online and offline retail endeavors, QR Codes play a pivotal role in attracting, retaining, and informing potential customers. Smartphone or tablet users can seamlessly access personalized, touch-free web experiences by simply pointing their device's digital camera at a QR Code, also known as a quick-response code.

The surge in QR Code usage during the pandemic, driven by the need for contactless solutions, has persisted into the present. Forward-thinking brands recognize that sustaining mobile engagement contributes significantly to an exceptional in-store experience and, consequently, success.

Maintaining a seamless offline and online customer experience remains crucial.

According to Tapper's QR Code internal data, QR Code usage has spiked by 41%, with the Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods industries experiencing an impressive 88% year-over-year increase.

Before launching a campaign, it's essential to consider the two types of QR Codes.

Static QR Codes, once created, cannot be altered, while Dynamic QR Codes enable data tracking and content edits at any time, making them ideal for dynamic retail marketing.

Learn more about the distinctions between Dynamic QR Codes and Static QR Codes in our article.

Key Insights:

  • QR Code marketing is an economical and versatile option for retailers of all sizes, whether online or in-store.
  • Dynamic QR Codes provide valuable data for tracking, analyzing, and refining campaigns, ensuring precise targeting.
  • QR Codes offer consumers user-generated content, influencing their purchasing decisions.
  • Adopting a unified, omnichannel marketing approach empowers individuals, brands, and businesses to engage customers at scale, wherever they are.

Advantages of QR Codes for Retailers

  • QR Codes are cost-effective, versatile tools that facilitate an omnichannel promotional approach.
  • Dynamic QR Codes offer tracking and analysis capabilities, providing valuable insights into customer behavior.
  • Customization options allow retailers to stand out and align QR Codes with their brand identity.
  • Easy implementation involves downloading QR Codes for online access or printing them on various marketing materials.
  • Metrics gathered from QR Code scans include the number of scans, unique visitors, device information, location, and time of day.

QR Code Applications in Retail

  • Consumer Appeal: With QR Code scanning becoming second nature to consumers, usage has grown by 41% in the first half of 2023.
  • Versatility: QR Codes facilitate various marketing possibilities, from Bitcoin payments to loyalty discounts and linking to menus.
  • Brand Customization: Retailers can design unique QR Code patterns, colors, frames, and logos to enhance brand representation.
  • Low Cost: The "do-it-yourself" approach makes QR Codes accessible without a significant financial investment.
  • Easy Implementation: QR Codes can be downloaded for online access or printed on billboards, ads, and other media.
  • Metrics: Valuable data metrics can be collected, including scan numbers, device information, GPS location, and time of day.
  • Tracking and Analysis: QR Code scans can be tracked and exported to analytics tools like Google Analytics.
  • Omnichannel Applications: QR Codes seamlessly integrate with multiple platforms, combining online marketing with TV ads, outdoor ads, and print and promotional materials.

While the list of benefits is extensive, a few cons exist, notably the limited usage among non-smartphone users and those unfamiliar with QR Code technology. Pew Research indicates that about 85% of adults in the U.S. own a smartphone.

How QR Codes are Utilized in the Retail Industry

QR Codes find diverse applications in the retail sector, both in-store and out-of-store, enhancing retail marketing efforts. These applications range from acquiring new customers to improving the in-store experience, contributing to increased customer loyalty and profitability.

QR Codes aren't exclusive to retailers; prominent online payment systems now extend QR Code payments to millions of small businesses and major retailers.

The growing popularity and usefulness of QR Codes are evident in a Statista survey from June 2021, revealing that 45% of U.S. shoppers used a marketing QR Code in the previous 90 days, and 59% believed QR Codes would be a permanent part of their future cellphone use.

Notable Examples of Out-of-Store QR Code Utilization

Mobile High 5: QR Codes for Collecting First-Party Data

Mobile High 5 employs QR Codes to build a valuable mobile subscriber list, emphasizing the need for first-party data in light of stringent data privacy policies.

Target: QR Codes for Streamlining Online Checkout

Target's app integrates QR Codes to facilitate seamless online checkout, connecting digital and physical experiences.

Amazon Prime: QR Codes for Driving Reality Show Online Store Sales

Amazon Prime's reality show "Making the Cut" employs QR Codes to direct viewers to featured designs for online purchase, integrating the viewing experience with e-commerce.

Multiple Small Businesses: QR Code Retail Display to Drive Traffic

In response to slowed store traffic during the pandemic, Facebook initiated an out-of-home campaign featuring unique QR Codes on window displays to attract shoppers to small businesses through Instagram and Facebook.

L’Oréal: QR Codes on Taxis for On-the-Go Marketing

L’Oréal partners with Glamour magazine, using QR Codes on New York City taxis during Fashion Week to engage customers, promote product lines, and increase app downloads.

Chick-fil-A: QR Codes for Increasing App Downloads

Chick-fil-A boosts mobile app downloads by 14% through a QR Code displayed in digital signage, encouraging customers to scan and download the app.

Verizon: QR Codes for Social Media Campaigns

Verizon employs QR Codes on signs to promote a Facebook campaign, encouraging user engagement and gaining 25,000 new fans.

Neutypechic: QR Codes for Connecting to Social Media

Neutypechic's retail mirror store utilizes QR Codes to direct shoppers to social media inboxes, facilitating engagement with new offerings and discounts.

Junk Food Clothing: QR Codes for Promoting Virtual Stores

Junk Food Clothing uses QR Codes on mall signs to promote virtual stores, tying new designs to events and increasing brand engagement.

Guinness: QR Codes on Swag for Interactive Promotions

Guinness creates customized QR Code cups that offer promotional coupons and interactive experiences when scanned, enhancing brand visibility.

Honest Brand Reviews: QR Codes for Marketing Campaigns

Honest Brand Reviews employs QR Codes for marketing campaigns, providing customers access to public data, trending products, and discounts, thereby increasing website traffic and conversion rates.

Pizza Hut: QR Codes for Navigating to Retail Stores

Popular fast-food chains, including Pizza Hut, include QR Codes in their apps to guide customers to stores for curbside service pick-up or eat-in dining.

QR Code Examples Within Retail Stores

Home Depot: QR Codes for Stock-Outs

Home Depot employs QR Codes to guide customers to similar items when products are temporarily out of stock, enhancing the shopping experience.

Foamy Wader: QR Codes for Literal Window Shopping

Foamy Wader implements QR Codes in window shopping, allowing customers to scan codes in store windows with their smartphones to order items online.

CVS Pharmacy: QR Codes for Discounts and Promotions

CVS Pharmacy integrates QR Codes into its app to provide members with savings, special offers, and reward tracking on various products throughout the store.

Scanbuy: QR Codes on Product Packaging for Detailed Information

Scanbuy leverages QR Codes on product packaging to comply with U.S. legislation, providing consumers with access to detailed information such as ingredients, nutritional facts, and certifications.

Patagonia: QR Codes to Minimize Packaging

Patagonia opts for QR Codes instead of printed hang tags to convey care instructions, product features, and sustainability information, contributing to environmental conservation.

Benefit Cosmetics: QR Codes for In-Store Engagement

Benefit Cosmetics employs QR Codes in a print mailer to engage users in a sweepstakes, driving customers to stores and activating coupons upon scanning.

Puma: QR Codes for Augmented Reality (AR) Marketing

Puma utilizes QR Codes to enable augmented reality experiences on its shoes, engaging users with AR filters, games, and leaderboard competitions.

Moriarity’s Gem Art: QR Code for Customer Feedback

Moriarity’s Gem Art automates customer feedback collection by sending postcards with QR Codes after each sale, directing customers to review on Google and significantly increasing online trust and authority.

DSW: QR Codes for Product Ordering

DSW incorporates digital showroom walls with QR Codes for customers to scan and order items directly from the display, streamlining the product discovery and ordering process.

Diesel: QR Codes for Sustainability Information

Diesel employs QR Codes to provide customers with detailed information about the sustainability of its products, addressing consumer concerns and reducing paper usage.

Walmart: QR Codes for Easier Returns

Walmart facilitates easier returns by allowing shoppers to store digital receipts through QR Codes, simplifying the authentication process.

Starbucks: QR Codes for Streamlining Checkout

Starbucks integrates QR Codes to enable mobile payments and streamline checkout for customers using the Starbucks Rewards app.

Which Retailers Embrace QR Codes?

Virtually all top 100 retailers, from Amazon to Williams-Sonoma, leverage QR Codes in their operations. Retailers of all sizes, irrespective of scale, recognize the myriad benefits and ease of implementation associated with QR Codes.

In the U.S. and globally, retailers such as Apple, Oasis, and Cainz Corporation are pioneering innovative uses of QR Codes:

Apple: Combining QR Codes and NFC Technology

Apple integrates QR Codes and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in its retail stores, enhancing customer experiences through smartphone payments, smart ticketing, and additional product information.

Oasis: Collecting Customer Feedback Through QR Codes

Fashion retailer Oasis incorporates QR Codes on products to gather customer feedback, providing valuable insights into customer preferences and informing stock evaluations.

Cainz Corporation: Autonomous Shopping Experience with QR Codes

Japanese-based home improvement chain Cainz Corporation introduces the Cainz Mobile Store, an autonomous shopping location where customers use QR Codes for entry, shopping, and payment, showcasing the potential of QR Codes in redefining the retail experience.

Advancements in QR Code Technology

The adoption of a new global standard, GS1 Digital Link, represents a significant development in QR Code technology. This standard, introduced in 2021, transforms GS1 barcodes into web links, connecting a product's unique identity to real-time brand-controlled information. With over two million brands already leveraging GS1, this standard, combined with widespread smartphone use, heralds a new era of disruption in retail marketing.

Avoiding Pitfalls in QR Code Usage for Retail Marketing

While QR Codes offer substantial advantages, there are potential pitfalls that can be avoided with careful consideration:

  • Lack of Call-to-Action (CTA): Always include a compelling and relevant CTA along with the QR Code to motivate users to scan.
  • Poor Readability: Ensure high-contrast QR Codes against a light background with ample whitespace to enhance readability.
  • QR Code Distortion: Maintain the normal-sized proportion of QR Codes to avoid distortion when resizing for posters or billboards.
  • Poor Scanning Distance: Adhere to the 10:1 scan distance to QR Code size ratio for effective scanning.
  • Movement and Timing Issues: Consider factors like moving vehicles or video scanning, ensuring QR Codes are positioned adequately for user-friendly scanning.
  • Not Testing Before Release: Thoroughly test QR Codes for size, quality, background, and proportion, verifying that they direct users to the correct webpage or website.
  • Not Leveraging Analytics Capabilities: After launching a QR Code marketing campaign, utilize analytics tools to measure performance and identify areas for improvement.

Efficient QR Code Marketing with Tapper

Efficiently create, customize, manage, and track QR Codes and links with the Tapper Connections Platform. As a comprehensive solution for Link Management and QR Codes, Tapper bridges the gap between the digital and physical realms, facilitating seamless connections with your audience. See for yourself and sign up for a free 14-day trial.

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