I want to let people install a mobile app after visiting a physical shop. My first go-to was a QR code, but I was wondering if people actually use them. Should I give a second option? What are your thoughts on this?
TL;DR: Not that popular currently but might become so in the future. In your case I'd look for an additional option if possible.
Edit: Because of RonJohn's comment and the many people who agreed, I decided to remake the charts in "true" form, so the numbers look less manipulative.
Scanova.io cites a few surveys across the years and claims it's on the rise:
In 2014, Adobe Systems conducted a study on QR Code usage over a period of three months. The study covered four countries—Germany, France, UK, and the US.
According to a recent survey by Statistia, in the US alone, an estimated 11 Million households will scan a QR Code in 2020. This is an increase from an estimated 9.76 Million scans in 2018.
They also make a good point how it's widely used in a few big Asian countries, especially China:
WeChat—which is predominantly used in China—made the nation obsessed with QR Codes in the last few years. The Chinese scan QR Codes to make payments, get information, authenticate themselves, avail offers, and for practically every other use case.
Personally, I'm not too convinced. I barely ever see QR codes being used (living in a western EU country), not by people I know and also not in public.
This mediag.com article makes a good point about it:
A lot of people hear “QR code” and think, “2011 called, and they want their marketing tactic back.” However, they’re starting to plateau, and even make a comeback since their huge dip in popularity in 2014-2016.
So, seems like they're not very popular currently but might become so again in the future? Hard to tell. But for your use case this means that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have an alternative to it (since not everyone might have a QR code scanner app installed).
Real Life Example
Interestingly enough, after saying how I never see them here, I just received this in my mail today :)
This is a really good example, as you can clearly see how two options are given. As Bergi said in his comment under the question, the QR-link should be provided in human-readable form as well.
In the US and Western Europe it's not used much. The stats are actually quite dismal. I see very few applications generating interest in QR codes. Skiing and hiking trails where one doesn't need to take off ones gloves is a niche-market exception.
On the other hand QR codes are really big in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea so if your market has a lot of East-Asian customers, especially East-Asian tourists, then I would include QR codes in all promotional material.
For example I put a QR code on my business card. It links to my website. I think of it as a stamp - analogous to stamps used with wax back in the day to authenticate ones signature; or like the red-ink stamps used in China, Japan, Korea.
In the US people look at my card and they go - "hey, looks good." It's perceived more like artwork, as an icon. I've given out 100s of cards at Meetups and am unaware of anyone going to my site via the card.
However, when I was in China the perception was much different. A large percentage of people took out their phones - on the spot - and scanned the QR code. I was so glad that I had updated my site before travelling.
The perception, the awareness, the comfort level regarding QR codes is far different in other countries and other cultures.
I've actually done a fair amount of work with QR codes in the past. It all depends on their implementation. If you simply slap a QR code on a poster - not so helpful. If it has a purpose and an incentive - people WILL scan them. They are widely popular in some countries. Basically - you've gotta give someone a reason to scan it.
You should have a QR code, whether on screen or paper. It is important to note that both Android and iOS come with default QR readers. QR code is the easiest way to pass a URL. Unless your application is on the App Store, it will be difficult to get to the application download page without a QR code.
Just yesterday I used a new Amazon feature where I bring an unpackaged item to be returned to the UPS Store, show them a QR code, and be on my merry way. It was incredible.
I'm seeing more and more QR codes finally make their way into the consumer space. I would say it's a pattern that is gaining popularity and that more "civilian" users will continue to become comfortaBLE WITH.
I think you should provide multiple options that people are likely to have, and let them choose. That might include:
- URL (if it's dead easy to remember/type)
- App name (so they can search for it in an app store)
- QR code
- Twitter handle for the app or your shop (then a link in your bio)
Aim for flexibility without too many options - three is probably enough. Maybe even get some business cards printed with the same info on so they can take it with them for later, if they don't want to mess around with their phones right there.
Regarding usage, I don't see them used day to day. However, whenever I make a poster for a conference I always put one on that links to a PDF of it. Seems to be well appreciated and it's getting more common.
Definitely I would go with QR Code. But I will also show them icon and name of the app; and a website. On website you could have a link for ios/android app. The people who use QR code will find it painless to scan and reach the intended app whereas its a hassle to go to website, or app store to install app, too many taps. Showing them icon boosts the user(who use qr code) confidence that they landed on right place at the same time give other people option to find your app.
OH! I should also note that by adding a QR code to your print material, you can actually build in metrics you wouldn't otherwise have. Since it uses a URL you can track all sorts of information (user location, device, number of scans, user pathways - all the usual). Another important reason why you want to put practices in place that will incentive your audience to actually scan.