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Usage and Awareness of QR Codes Around the World

May 16th, 2012
Since their invention by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994, QR codes have expanded beyond their initial industrial tracking purposes to marketing and advertising applications. Now that Smartphone users the world over carry barcode readers in their pockets, the two-dimensional digital images are used to lead consumers to websites that provide more detailed product or service information (a process known as “hardlinking”), and in some cases to track the location of the consumers who seek this information.

QR codes are popping up on signs in front of information desks, brochures and marketing materials, product tags and packaging, restaurant menus, and many other places. To evaluate consumer awareness of these tags, we randomly surveyed respondents across our panels (China, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, the USA, and the UK; less than 1,000 sampled per panel) about their Smartphone ownership, and, among Smartphone owners, their usage and awareness of the codes.

Of the panels we surveyed, we found Singapore (78%) and Hong Kong (73%) showed the highest rates of Smartphone ownership (Figure 1). Japan finds itself at the bottom of the list, but perhaps not for long. According to a recently published comScore study (In Japan, Smartphones Surpass Feature Phones among Newly Acquired Devices for First Time Ever), number of Smartphones devices acquired topped the number of feature phones devices acquired in February 2012.

Figure 1: Smartphone penetration among sample surveyed

Among Smartphone users, we asked about usage and awareness of QR codes, as represented by a picture. China and Hong Kong scored highest in the usage category, at 70% and 64%, respectively, while South Korea and Japan scored highest in awareness (98% and 96%) (Figure 2). It seems that while South Koreans and Japanese are aware of the codes, they are reluctant to use them, perhaps on account of privacy concerns. In China, meanwhile, QR codes are found on many commonplace items, including express train tickets.

Figure 2: Usage and Awareness of QR Codes (among Smartphone users)

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