< back to guides

Are QR Codes Dead? QR Code Statistics Say No

QR Code Menu

Do people still use QR codes? Yes. The quirky little “quick response” codes found new life in a post-pandemic world where contactless everything is the standard.

Cleanliness of businesses—their ability to deliver a germ-free experience—has never been more important than right now. Going out to crowded places is not only a risk to you, but to everyone you come in contact with—knowingly and unknowingly.

But it’s a risk we must accept cautiously and manage responsibly. And businesses that leverage custom QR codes for contactless customer experiences are leading the charge.

So let’s quantify this new era of QR codes with some QR code statistics. Then let’s look into why they’ve become such a valuable part of the modern commercial experience.

QR Code Statistics: Context

One of the reasons QR codes are so prevalent right now is because so many people have a QR code scanner in their pocket. Their smartphone. To understand why QR codes are growing, the market presence of smartphones is important.

  • 91% of users of iOS devices have built-in QR code scanners (App Store)
  • 81% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2019 (Pew)
  • 90% of Americans used the internet in 2019 (Statista)
  • 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes by 2022 (Juniper Research)

In fact, as of 2017, Our World in Data found that there are:

  • 122 cell phone subscriptions per 100 people in the U.S.

Yes, more cell phone subscriptions than people. People have multiple subscriptions, is the idea. Still, it’s a shocking statistic.

All of this has led to the adoption, growth, and success of QR codes in the U.S. That’s why QR code uses are so varied. We use them for everything now.

To what extent? Read on.

QR Code Statistics: Usage

How QR codes work is simple. That’s why they’re growing in usage every year. Statista provides the most recent data for QR market penetration, from 2014 (though we make a 2019 estimation using this data below):

QR code statistics % population used


  • In 2014, roughly 27% of developed countries' populations were using QR codes.

Pew found in 2014 that about 57% of Americans had smartphones in 2014, compared to the 81% figure for 2019 we previously mentioned.

Given that smartphone ownership increased 42% from 2014 to 2019, we can extrapolate that same increase for QR code usage. We estimate that:

  • 37% of the U.S. population used QR codes in 2019. That’s over 121 million people.

It’s fair to say other developed countries like those surveyed in the 2014 survey are at or above that usage rate.

Here are two other QR code statistics that drive home usage:

  • 11 million households in the U.S. will scan a QR code in 2020 (Statista)
  • 5.3 billion QR code coupons will be redeemed on smartphones by 2022 (Juniper Research)

QR Code Statistics: Growth

QR codes vs barcodes, for personal use, is a no-brainer. Here is perhaps the most compelling pair of statistics about the growth of QR codes. 

  • There was a 26% growth in total QR code scans from 2018 to 2019 (Blue Bite) 

That’s phenomenal year-over-year growth. But there’s more.

  • There was a 35% growth in scans per object from 2018 to 2019 (Blue Bite).

That means that there are more total scans and that people are more likely to scan the same QR code more than once. It speaks to the public’s willingness to rely on QR codes. And it speaks to QR codes’ continually expanding roles in our daily lives. They are no longer a novelty. They are immensely useful.

So who’s using them?

QR Code Statistics: Demographics

QR code statistics worldwide QR code usage by age


  • The majority (27%) of global QR code users are 35 to 44 years old.
  • The vast majority (68%) of global QR code users are 25 to 54 years old.

Why Are QR Codes Catching On in 2020?

QR codes were invented in the 90s, but they didn’t have their hay day until around 2011 or 2012. When smartphones started becoming the truly ubiquitous devices they are today. So, rolling out technology scannable by everyone’s smartphones made sense. 

But there was a problem. Businesses didn’t quite know how to make QR codes or how to deploy QR codes. People placed them in inconvenient places. Few understood QR code dimensions. They took people to clunky websites that weren’t optimized for mobile devices. The first iteration of QR code use was basically wishful thinking on the part of corporations. They liked the idea of QR codes, but they didn’t execute it well. And so, 10 years ago, QR codes didn’t catch on like some folks predicted.

But QR codes, and our usage of them, has matured. We learned from the dog days of 2011. In that sense, it is a bit of a QR code comeback. Today’s businesses using and generating QR codes are, on a whole, good stewards of the technology. And because they’re now deployed and used optimally, QR codes are legitimately some of the most convenient pieces of tech out there. And that’s doubly true given the importance of hygienic, touchless commerce.

For an in-depth look, check out our What Is a QR Code? post. Now let’s look into why QR codes are catching on in 2020.

QR Codes Are Hygienic

Restaurant cleanliness was already paramount for diners when deciding where to spend their time and money. A pre-COVID-19 study found that 75% of people stay away from bars and restaurants with negative reviews about cleanliness. It was already a high number, and in no universe has it gone down.

Studies also find that paper restaurant menus are the single filthiest thing on a restaurant table. For that reason, the National Restaurant Association recommends that paper menus be discarded after each use. People are aware of restaurants’ cleanliness and the grim place physical menus hold in that context.

You can be sure that all the people out there who read reviews about restaurant cleanliness will deeply appreciate a contactless QR code menu. It’s a signal to them to tell them you are taking sanitation as seriously as possible.

According to Professor Cihan Cobanoglu, director of the M3 Center for Hospitality & Innovation at the University of South Florida, “contactless menus will be a key point for restaurants to adopt.” To both keep businesses as clean and safe as possible and align with consumer expectations.

QR Codes Are Better Than Apps

Running a business today demands an adherence and vigilance to hygiene unlike any other modern era. That’s why so many businesses are digitizing their customer experiences. Take the restaurant industry, for example. Paper menus are the single filthiest thing on a restaurant table. To avoid the risks of contaminating customers, restaurants embrace digital menus. And many of them use menu apps.

But menu technologies like that are expensive to create and require massive amounts of time and energy to maintain, update, and troubleshoot. The lightweight solution to this is using a QR code menu. Guests don’t have to download anything. There’s no coding software from the ground up. They just scan and get taken to a mobile-optimized menu published online.

The same applies to many apps businesses use. Instead of building a proprietary payment app, use a QR code for contactless payments. Instead of creating an internal app for placing orders, a QR code can help power a touchless ordering system.

QR Codes Are Easy to Deploy and Use

Apps are notoriously hard to build and maintain, so it may not be a surprise that QR codes are often better. But even without that frame of reference, QR codes are downright easy to create, distribute, and use. Try a QR code test to see for yourself.

Let’s use digital menus again as an example. If you’re using a service that creates secure, dynamic QR codes for you, there’s really not much for you to do. And, full disclosure, we have a popular QR-based digital menu that restaurants and hotels depend on. All you’ll do is upload a spreadsheet of your menu information into an online tool. Then you’ll click a button. Congratulations, you’ll have just created a QR code that you can print out, stick, or place anywhere.

QR codes are easy for businesses to use because updating them is as easy as updating the text on a website. You don’t have to update the QR code to update the information encoded in it.

And QR codes are easy for customers to use, too. There’s nothing to download. Learning how to scan a QR code takes a minute or two, tops. But most people already know how to do it, anyway. Want an idea of how easy it is to troubleshoot a QR code issue? Take a look at our guide for if a QR code won’t scan.

QR Codes Have Many Uses

The uses of QR codes vary, and it depends in large part on whether the QR code is a static or dynamic QR code. Here’s the short version of the difference: A static QR code cannot be edited after it’s created. A dynamic QR code can. For obvious purposes, dynamic QR codes are the far better choice for virtually every QR code use case. Especially for businesses who want to iterate and improve their campaigns with QR code tracking.

Let’s take a look at some of those use cases.

QR Code Marketing

QR code marketing was a major early use of QR codes. That’s because it’s simple. It doesn’t ask that the QR code provide any substantive interaction opportunities for the customer. Like ordering or paying, for example. It simply puts promotional information about a company, product, deals, service, or event in front of the customer.

In this sense, the more places the QR code is placed, the better. In magazines, on products, on packaging, on receipts, in emails, you name it. QR codes are an almost effortless way to put what makes your business special in front of your (potential) customers.

One popular way to do this is using QR code templates and QR codes on tables. Print out a pre-formatted template that makes it clear as day what to do (scan the QR code). Your QR marketing will get a lot more engagement.

QR Code Menus

QR menus are perhaps the most compelling example of the value QR codes bring to today’s commercial landscape. They allow for untold agility for high-traffic businesses that rely on menus, catalogs, or price lists. Especially if those businesses opt to use flexible HTML files instead of QR code PDFs.

As we stated before, restaurant menus are the single dirtiest thing on restaurant tables. The National Restaurant Association, in fact, recommends discarding paper menus after each use. So, first, a contactless menu releases bars, restaurants, and hotels from these creeping costs. And second, it signals to your guests that you’re not messing around with their safety. Even single use menus (see single use menu definition) don't entirely get around this problem.

Restaurant cleanliness was one of the primary factors people considered when going out to eat before COVID-19. That’s true by orders of magnitude now. Using a QR-based contactless menu is the clearest indicator that a hospitality business is taking post-COVID hygiene seriously.

But embracing digital menus isn’t the only way restaurants and retail businesses can work toward germ-free experiences for their customers.

End-to-End Touchless Commerce Experience

Digital menus are just the first way hospitality businesses can safely reopen and deliver end-to-end touchless experiences. The other two are contactless ordering and contactless payments.

Ordering

When a guest scans a QR code for your digital menu or catalog, they’re redirected to a mobile-optimized site. There they can add items to a shopping cart. Submitting that order either creates a QR code for an employee to scan or sends the transaction directly to an employee. Either way, you’re able to communicate what you want with just a few clicks.

Payment

Likewise, anytime a business charges someone for anything, they can generate a unique QR code for it. That QR code will have a transaction identifier encoded in it. It tells a customer’s device how much they owe and to where to send the money. When they scan the QR code with their payment app of choice, the app reads the amount, the transfer location, and initiates the transfer.

QR code menu for restaurants

So, Are QR Codes Dead? Do People Still Use QR Codes?

Not by a long shot. And yes, absolutely. Anyone who says or thinks so isn’t paying attention. People still use QR codes. How many people use QR codes? Billions. And it’s growing. As it became easier to optimize websites for mobile devices, QR codes gradually became more useful. Today, we’re a mobile-optimized economy. And QR codes are almost invaluable—especially to those who want to change a URL to a QR code. Especially to any business that wants to embrace the post-COVID hygiene standards that hundreds of millions of people now dutifully observe and fiercely protect.

If you’re a bar, restaurant, or hotel and you’re looking to make a change for the better, reach out to us. We create, deploy, and support QR-based digital restaurant menus and digital wine lists for some of the top businesses in the industry. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and, importantly, they’re the responsible choice. The future of business isn’t just digital, it’s touchless.