Watching March Madness this past March, you witnessed not only a lot of great basketball, but you witnessed QR Code technology firmly showcased in pop culture, unwavering on TV screens and game coverage across the country. Sure, the common man has seen QR Codes and is aware of them, but during each game there was a reminder from the CBS family carrying the games across channels: download our CBS app using a QR Code. The code was then presented on the screen, beckoning viewers to take out their phones and utilize the code to get live stats, supplemental coverage, and behind-the-scenes reporting. Every single game, multiple times a game: “Use this QR Code”.
Fertile Ground for Growth
QR Codes are not only back – bigger and better, if you will – but they are mainstream, and becoming increasingly utilized by the day. They are finally getting their time to shine here in the US first because they were (and are) able to provide solutions to real needs during the pandemic, and now are able to provide entertainment, insight, information, and so much more… all right from your smartphone.
Like a flower, the technology has blossomed from auto dealerships to mom-and-pop shops, CBS to your favorite diner. Years ago, when QR Codes first made their appearance, the use case wilted – whether due to those not knowing how to cultivate, or the timing being wrong leading to a ‘dry season’. Those times are long behind us now as the environment – saturated by the pandemic and the need for contactless transactions – is absolutely perfect for QR Codes to bloom.
Improved Accessibility, Practical Technology
The growth and use of QR Codes are further fertilized by the developing technology itself – QR code readers are now universally being built into mobile device by the manufacturer, so no separate app to download. This technology is native to a user base that, in many ways, has grown up with smartphones and QR Codes themselves – they’ve grown and utilized the internet just as the internet has simultaneously had an always improving mobile web experience. Of course there are newer, sexier technologies like NFC tags and beacons, but the QR code remains incredibly ubiquitous and practical, as it doesn’t require any special encoding or physical tags or additional devices, and can be displayed both physically on printed media, as well as television and digital media – it’s readily available from your main street general store to Fortune 500 enterprises alike.
A Better Use Case
In the early 2010s, marketers were printing QR codes on direct mailers, billboards, in-store displays, and all means of product packaging. The codes needed a real need in order to thrive, something more than a coupon or additional details – back then, there was no real or compelling reason to scan a QR Code. So why now? Why are they becoming mainstream? Simple: they provide answers and solutions during the pandemic, with current technology and a user base that is showing the world that QR codes are only just getting started: contactless payment, touchless shopping, digital menus, self-serve food ordering, and it doesn’t stop there.
Shows like ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘The Today Show’ display QR codes on-screen when they do their “Deals” segments to give users an easy way to transition from the program to the purchase pages for the products they review on the show. This, much like the CBS March Madness codes, make for a very simple and efficient way to tie together media and eCommerce.
Instagram launched a QR code generator that directs users and customers to a business or brand’s profile. From there they can see updated store details (like hours, location) and make purchases or returns. In the fall, voter registration was encouraged and enabled to communities using QR codes. Towards the end of 2020, CVS became the first national retailer to offer support for PayPal and Venmo QR codes as a form of touch-free payment at checkout. And yes, here in spring 2021 as the vaccine is rolling out, you’ll see TV commercials and flyers that have QR Codes for not only registering for a shot, but also providing health information, guidance, and a means of educating the population.
QR stands for ‘quick response’ and one thing is for certain: the return of QR Codes to the spotlight will be anything but quick. They are firmly mainstream, here for the future and here to stay.
With everything the pandemic brought to 2020, the year was a spotlight shining brightly on how touch-free solutions and QR Codes are to be a major part of not just our dining or shopping experience, but are fully a part of lives today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
We fully expect see a massive surge of QR code use into 2021. This blog is the first of three in a series which will focus on how QR codes will continue to develop and grow in the future.
When shopping, product packaging is a crucial aspect of consumer decision-making. In fact, in her article “Why 2021 is the year of QR codes” author Sneh Ratna Choudhary shares with readers that approximately 1/3rd of consumer decision making when shopping is solely based on a product’s packaging. Choudhary further reiterates this point with the realization that QR codes are the answer to the ever-present marketing problem of creating a minimalistic yet aesthetically pleasing design. The author also touches on QR codes being required with GMO products in the U.S.; supplying the consumer with an easy way to learn more about the ingredients within the product.
Today’s consumer is not only concerned about ingredients in GMO products, however. According to a 2020 consumer behavior report published by Deloitte, current and future consumers will most likely be making purchasing decisions based on a newly understood set of parameters, including: nutritional awareness, sustainability, and social responsibility. In his article titled “QR Codes on Food: How QR Code Food Uses Engage Customers”, the author addresses these three purchasing parameters and how QR codes can be effectively implemented with each. Firstly, the author highlights that only about one of every 3 people check the nutritional labels on the packaged food they eat, even though approximately 63% of the population want to eat healthy “most or all of the time”. Scott outlines that providing nutritional information via QR code, something that subsequently isn’t restricted by the space on product packaging, allows manufacturers the ability to add a more detailed set of information that is invaluable to consumers. Scott urges manufacturers to take advantage of the greater flexibility with the QR code, as consumers can be made easily aware of allergy information, social responsibility initiatives, instructions, sustainability certifications, and more with a simple scan. This also opens the door for the possibilities of food traceability. As the author outlines, “a running account of where [a product] originated, was manufactured, and was distributed along with relevant information about those production, manufacturing, and distribution facilities [can all be traced using a QR code]. Scott further emphasizes that QR code traceability can also take into account the present status of products, such as product recalls, updates regarding production facilities/fulfillment centers, and any other relevant information in regards to the product’s present supply chain status.
It is clear that the use of the QR code will continue to grow exponentially into 2021, with QR code food labels just one of many versatile uses of the technology.
Choudhary, Sneh Ratna. “Why 2021 Is the Year of QR Codes.” Beaconstac RSS, 24 Dec. 2020, blog.beaconstac.com/2019/02/why-2019-is-the-year-of-qr-codes/.
Scott. “QR Codes on Food: How QR Code Food Uses Engage Customers.” SproutQR, SproutQR, Inc., 1 Sept. 2020, www.sproutqr.com/blog/qr-code-food.
Restaurants have been adding interactive technology to their tables allowing users to view the menu and order on a tablet – there are even games for kids. Some of these tablets allows diners to pay without waiting for a check to be delivered. Pretty convenient, right? It gets better. A Japanese restaurant in London has become one of the first in applying the QR code technology in the kitchen. ICHIBUNS has created the first burger bun branded QR code. The company has partnered with mobile-payment servicers, Zapper. The idea is supposed to allow customers to make easy, fast, and safe payments for the food by scanning the code on the bun with a smartphone. Diners can leave a tip and split the bill. Users need to download the app to pay which is made simple – all they need to do is scan the QR code on the bun.
To incentivize users, ICHIBUNS is offering customers £7 off their first bill and other exclusive rewards. Benjamin Goldkorn, CEO of ICHIBUNS, said: “Our goal with ICHIBUNS was to be a restaurant experience like no other, and our partnership with Zapper is a great way to achieve this, allowing us to be at the forefront of hospitality innovation by offering much more than just a payment service. Combining it with our own app also allows us to give something back to our amazing, loyal customers, with discounts and prizes available to win.” We think it is safe to say this would be an experience like no other. Our question was what if you’re starving and quickly bite into that juicy wagyu beef burger only to realize that part of the QR code is now missing? Fear not. Your QR code is also printed on the menu.
standard.co.uk/go/london/restaurants/you-can-pay-for-this-burger-with-the-qr-code-on-its-bun-a3927991.html (IMAGE CRED to this site).
Who’s hungry…for a QR Code? It’s been very intriguing to read about the newest technological advancement in medicine – edible QR Codes. Though it will not satisfy your hunger, the drugs via edible QR Codes will deliver necessary and tailored drug amounts to the individual eating the code. A recent study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, along with colleagues from Abo Akademi University in Finland, have developed a white edible material with which they have successfully printed a QR Code consisting of a drug. Now, some of you may be envisioning something like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper machine from the 1971 classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, cranking out little bits of medicine on paper. But, in fact, the researchers actually adapted inkjet printing technology to print the edible QR Codes that contain a dose of medicine adjusted for the particular needs of the patient.
Wow. It’s one thing to just be able to print edible medicine. It’s an even further step to be able to print medicine as a QR Code. The technology is said to be very promising, because the medical drug can be dosed exactly the way patients need it to be. The perfect amount of one or more drugs can be incorporated into a single printed QR Code, thereby reducing the number of different pills a patient needs to take separately. This also eliminates the problem of a dose being rounded up or down to the nearest amount that is put in the typical pill. Edible QR Codes gives healthcare professionals an opportunity to tailor the medication specifically to the patient taking it. This new way to administer drugs enables doctors and patients alike to have a better understanding of the drugs ingested – the shape of the QR Code enables the storage of data about the drug in the drug itself, where a simple scan can bring up all pertinent information about the drug.
While the information and data provided by an edible QR Code will prove highly beneficial, there are some issues that will need to be addressed. First, the patients will need to have the ability to scan the QR Code. Luckily, most everyone today has a smart phone that is capable of reading such codes. Additionally, there is concern that the medicinal QR Codes may fade over time. While further research on light, temperature, and humidity resistance will need to take place, preliminary testing showed that printed codes exposed to humidity were still readable, as long as the codes were kept flat when printed and were not creased or wrinkled prior to scanning.
“Simply doing a quick scan, you can get all the information about the pharmaceutical product. In that sense it can potentially reduce cases of wrong medication and fake medicine,” said Natalja Genina, an assistant professor at the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Copenhagen. It is possible that this study could one day allow a regular printer to be able to apply the medical drug in the pattern of a QR code, while the edible material is produced in advance to allow on-demand production of medical drug near end-users.
“If we are successful with applying this production method to relatively simple printers, then it can enable the innovative production of personalized medicine and rethinking of the whole supply chain,” says professor Jukka Rantanen from the Department of Pharmacy. Fascinating development.