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?

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    Is this only limited to app installation or also for utility within the app itself? For example, I have an IP camera that pairs in an app and the QR code on the camera itself makes for a great UX since I just scan the code from the app. If your question, is only about app discoverability, that answer might not be good for this question.
    – zero298
    Jul 6, 2019 at 0:35
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    Yes, you definitely should always make the encoded information (e.g. the app URL) available in human-readable form as well. QR-code only is an antipattern that discriminates those who don't have a QR reader at hand.
    – Bergi
    Jul 6, 2019 at 15:25
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    What's your intended location? The answer is probably very location dependent. Belgium? Big city? Small city? Village in the middle of nowhere? Is wi-fi an option in the street of the shop?
    – Mast
    Jul 7, 2019 at 17:14
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    Why has the title been edited? The new title is more formally grammatically correct; but the old one was a perfectly good informal use of language, and much more colourful. Sacrificing colour for formality seems a shame.
    – PLL
    Jul 8, 2019 at 12:45

12 Answers 12


TL;DR: Not that popular currently but might become so again 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.

Official study chart:

Chart remade in Excel:
Chart showing use of QR codes in percentages per country

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.

Official study chart:

Chart remade in Excel:
Chart showing use of QR codes in millions of households in the US

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 :)

enter image description here

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.

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    A very big point is the practical application they have/are used in in China. A fun anecdotal example is a streamer that showed one of the fancy Chinese vending machines on stream and a member of their chat paid for their item, which is something really only possible through QR codes because of their incredible fault tolerance
    – 66h3m3ab
    Jul 5, 2019 at 16:53
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    Those two graphs are great examples of lying with graphs.
    – RonJohn
    Jul 5, 2019 at 23:03
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    Do people not perceive a security risk with QR codes? Basically, the users have to trust that a QR code is legit and isn't going to send them to a malicious website, and they have no idea where it's sending them before they scan it.
    – shoover
    Jul 5, 2019 at 23:30
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    @shoover: that's not a security risk with QR codes itself. It doesn't matter if you're visiting a site printed on regular text URL or QR, people need to exercise their trust-risk judgements on the site they are visiting based on where they got the address from.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jul 6, 2019 at 4:59
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    @LieRyan If I visit a regular text URL, I can (1) verify it's https rather than http, (2) verify the domain (as long as there 's no i18n/unicode confusables spoofing). A QR code is as unsafe as a URL shortener.
    – gerrit
    Jul 6, 2019 at 17:49

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.

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    "and am unaware of anyone going to my site via the card" - does that say a lot about QR code usage as such? IMHO, the default content of a QR code on a business card is a VCARD entry, not a URL. I have scanned plenty of QR codes from business cards to add the respective data to my contacts, but had I ever encountered a website link instead of a VCARD in there, I don't think I would have opened it, as visiting a website is usually not my intended goal when scanning the QR code from a business card. Jul 6, 2019 at 11:34
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    You raise an interesting point regarding the VCARD v URL.
    – Mayo
    Jul 8, 2019 at 13:05
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    in Vietnam QR codes are everywhere, just like in East Asian countries
    – phuclv
    Jul 8, 2019 at 16:32
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    China is likely to export more of "its thinking" as it moves from building less stuff subcontracted to Western Brands and starts to push more of its own brands onto global market - with associated documentation.
    – PhillipW
    Dec 25, 2019 at 18:27

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.

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    Could you flesh this out a bit? What is enough of an incentive for people to scan the code? Is a QR code on a poster with a caption saying to scan it for more information "simply slap[ping] a QR code on a poster" or is it "a reason to scan it"? Jul 6, 2019 at 9:09
  • I guess it depends. I'd say a use case like you've suggested would be valuable, for instance, in real estate. If you were to scan a sign or one-pager in a window. From a marketing standpoint you could 'scan to win' (which would bring you to a sign up page to solicit subscribers). It's important to remember that QR codes are a mobile technology, so they should be implemented accordingly. Does that help? Jul 9, 2019 at 18:28
  • Two examples I’ve seen where QR codes get used: (1) In Pokemon Go to become “friends”, one person brings up their code and the other scans it. (2) The local bus stops all have QR codes, scan one to find when the next buses will arrive. Jul 11, 2019 at 7:17

Also - you can customize / brand your QR codes to make them more visually intriguing – so long as you build in around 30% error correction. Here's a couple of examples one some I did (way back in the day).

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    Not sure I'd ever recommend deliberately corrupting QR codes, but those really are done attractively!
    – A C
    Jul 5, 2019 at 19:15
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    These may look attractive, but I'll bet most people won't recognize that this is a QR code if they just see it on the street without any prompting even if they know what QR code is.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jul 6, 2019 at 5:00
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    This doesn't seem to answer the question of whether people use QR codes or not, although creating a more attractive or engaging design might help improve uptake.
    – Michael Lai
    Jul 7, 2019 at 23:28
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    While these certainly look interesting, actually scanning these would be the last thing I'd try. Exception might be the one in the top-right, which is the only one that looks like a well-formed code, but even then I might do so out of curiosity whilst bored, rather than actually trying to find some contact information / app / etc. Perhaps good for some viral marketing, but when usability is concerned, I feel this is a miss.
    – MBender
    Jul 8, 2019 at 9:58
  • For usability, maybe not? but in term of engagement, I think these are a win - the viewer gets to feel good about spotting the qr code, if nothing else. It engages their brain, which then means that they are engaging with the ad.
    – Baldrickk
    Jul 8, 2019 at 13:51

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.

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    In my (limited) experience, over a number of years and Android devices, I haven't come across a default QR reader.
    – Dan Getz
    Jul 6, 2019 at 18:24
  • medium.com/turunen/…
    – Ren
    Jul 6, 2019 at 20:27
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    @DanGetz Google Lens is getting integrated to various Android devices, and it can handle QR codes.
    – muru
    Jul 8, 2019 at 4:21
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    among devices that I've used, only some Moto G phones have built-in QR code scanner. But I don't care about whether it's installed by default or not because one of the first apps that I install in a new phone is always a QR code scanner. QR code is so common that it's hard to get by without a scanner
    – phuclv
    Jul 8, 2019 at 16:37
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    Nevertheless the bulk of the population don't know this, I doubt they have the reflex to open Google Lens to scan QR codes
    – Hendrik
    Jul 10, 2019 at 6:27

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.

  • As long as the user doesn't scan the QR code themselves, but just hands it over to another party, I'm not convinced this allows for any statement about QR codes. After all, Amazon could just as well give you a code number or some other form of visual encoding, all else equal - the consumer doesn't have to be aware or think about what a QR code is or how to use it. They are just given something, really anything, by Amazon that they have to show at the UPS Store. Jul 9, 2019 at 0:17
  • That's a very good point. The cases where QR codes are useful are when you receive the code and scan it somewhere like a movie theater, UPS Store, or Whole Foods. Jul 10, 2019 at 1:04
  • Not sure whether I got you right there - IMHO, the cases where QR codes are useful to users are when you receive the code and scan it with your device to save the trouble of typing something long (URL, wifi password, etc.). The cases you listed can make use of QR codes, but could just as well use something else without changing the effort from the user's perspective. Jul 10, 2019 at 10:41

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.


I think the fact that even Chrome support a feature to provide a QR code for a web page instead of using links suggests that it is popular enough that it is accepted by just about everyone in the world now.

enter image description here

In many countries (like China) QR codes are already part of the normal day-to-day life as far as online activities and digital transactions go. For other countries, the changes introduced as a result of the pandemic has meant that digital ways of transacting are more acceptable and encouraged.

Suffice to say, compared to when the question was first asked, it is definitely used and accepted by the public in general.


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.

  • You should update your original Answer with this extra information rather than playing your answer across two Answers.
    – straya
    Jan 20, 2020 at 4:18

A QR code technology can be said as an updated version of Barcode technology.QR code can be easily generated with QR code generator and it can be scanned via smartphone or 2-d scanner. But how can QR code be used in business? Business Cards enter image description here

In this modern generation, QR codes are the successors to barcodes which have gained popularity in recent years. There are more than a few reasons that are why QR code is better. QR code is versatile, it can be used for anything and everything, scan QR code and store information. There are several big brands who are utilizing asset tracking via QR code. Therefore, it proves that asset tracking is successful with the QR code assistance.

QR code is more than just asset tracking. QR code is used to track more than names and prices of products, this will include information as serial number, part number, lots and dates, and other data. A QR code system is meant to serve you in the best and easy way.

You can manage, maintain and track your inventory in the best possible way. Implement it as soon as you can and track your inventory effectively and efficiently. QR code inventory management is easier to handle and work with because the QR codes are typically easy to read through mobile phones and they don’t require the bulky hand-held scanners to read them.


How would you deliver a QR code to a person after they visit a shop? That seems to be a scenario which requires more thought in that you must somehow remember some details of each person that enters and exits the shop in order to communicate with them, then send the QR code to them (doing so digitally would necessitate a QR scanner that can scan local image files, not all do that) or have them go to the QR code (inherently impractical).

I strongly encourage you shift your approach to one whereby you seek to have each store visitor use the QR code while instore. Even if it is on the backside of the entrance doorway for them to see as they leave (though, you could cause congestion on the entrance by placing a QR code there).

To decrease friction on whatever mobile platform the visitor uses, aim to provide the features of Firebase Dynamic Links either using Firebase Dynamic Links, a similar 3rd party service, of implementing your own logic on a web application that can forward to the appropriate store listing if the visitor does not already have the app installed.

As for a second option, your aim is to have the visitor install a mobile app and I assume that that app is the official app of the store: advertise the benefits of the app within the store and make the call to action in such advertising be a search term that has a very high chance of yielding the target app towards the top of the search results for whatever mobile platform store the visitor prefers. That way you arm the visitor's memory with the information necessary to search and find your target application ad-hoc, after they have left the store and in the case they overlook or decide against using the QR code mechanism.

My experience with QR code usage in China was:

  • QR codes were generally placed near the cash register/checkout point.
  • Sometimes QR codes were placed near entrances or on tables.
  • Colleagues would utilise QR codes and pay using WeChat without my noticing, as I fumbled to find the correct change to pay with.
  • Never did a QR code open a website, rather they would deep-link into WeChat.

Since many people are offering extra information about the proliferation of QR code usage worldwide, it seems that emerging markets in South-East Asia believe that standardisation in QR codes for payments is necessary: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Philippines have each introduced national standards for QR code payments: https://www.opengovasia.com/a-commitment-to-grow-e-payments-in-the-philippines/

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