QR codes

Don’t Call It a Comeback: QR Codes Poised for a Resurgence in 2023

Share this:

The holiday marketing strategies retailers concocted months ago are now in full effect, and with less than a week before Christmas, many brands are already looking ahead at how they take what worked and use it to improve in 2023. It may be too soon to pinpoint the biggest takeaways from the 2022 holiday marketing blitz, but one in-store technology stands out from the rest: QR codes.

QR codes became one of advertisers’ favorite tools in 2022, thanks in large part to the simple implementation. QR code technology hasn’t actually come very far since the 1990s, but using QR codes has gotten easier—for both consumers and retail marketers—now that nearly every shopper has a smartphone in their pocket.

One-quarter of U.S. adults already use their smartphones to redeem or scan coupons while at in-store checkouts, according to a survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics. With the right approach, retailers can capitalize on the willingness of consumers to use their phones while shopping in-store, and add QR codes to product displays as a way to insert interactivity into the shopping experience. QR codes can also help increase sign-up rates for retailer loyalty programs. 

But achieving the loftiest benchmarks means understanding how QR codes really work and how the technology can be combined with other solutions, including geofencing, to engage shoppers in the moments that matter most.

“The QR code is a simple, effective means to introduce the element of interactivity to the shopping experience. It can serve as a quick way for consumers to join the retailer’s loyalty program and activate an offer, or it can be a way to learn more about specific items or the retailer’s upcoming events,” says Henri Lellouche, vice president of retail and partnerships at Quotient, a digital promotions firm.

“Retailers could be doing a better job of educating shoppers about the connection between QR codes and coupons. It’s all about creating a habit and educating shoppers towards mass adoption of this approach, and one way you could do that is by making QR codes that are connected to the individual offer gallery available at many locations in addition to the shelf, including on in-store signage, in circulars, and on other screens or printed materials.”

While older shoppers are more hesitant to use QR codes than younger ones, overall willingness to use the technology is growing. According to a survey by Syntegon, nearly 80% of consumers say they are willing to scan a QR code if the experience is easy for them.

A number of companies are working to help businesses take better advantage of QR codes to satisfy their customers, including Quotient and also Digiphy, a contextual marketing platform that activates physical products and marketing assets. In New York, the live commerce company TalkShopLive also recently added QR codes to holiday window displays, so shoppers can purchase featured products from their phones.

Lellouche believes the future of QR codes is as an add-on, combining the codes with other technologies to increase engagement.

“Geofencing is a perfect example of how retailers and brands can leverage QR codes to be more efficient with their promotions and merchandising investment. Let’s say you have a QR code on a shelf tag or merchandising display — that link can serve any number of actions depending on the specific item, inventory status, or store location, and it allows for the opportunity to turn on, off or adjust offers without having to change the physical shelf tag or endcap,” Lellouche says.

“Not only does this add a layer of flexibility to help brands be more efficient with their marketing spend, but it also adds sophistication in how you can personalize offers to create a more valuable in-store shopping experience for the consumer.”

Lellouche suggests that brands and retailers start experimenting with NFC, near field communication, which is the same technology that is used in contactless payments. This is also a familiar technology for shoppers, and Lellouche says the tags themselves are inexpensive to create. NFC allows shoppers to tap against an at-shelf sign, or any signage, to have an offer directly loaded onto their card.

To experience the maximum benefits, Lellouche says retailers need to commit to making technology a part of their overall marketing strategy, rather than just a tactic that’s used occasionally.

“More than anything, retailers should think of QR codes as a way to bridge the gap between the physical store and the digital world, moving the customer-retailer relationship into the customer’s smartphone where the conversation can become more personalized and meaningful,” Lellouche says. “Ultimately, this allows the retailer to deliver more value through relevant offers and better shopping experiences along with the data insights to better understand and improve customers’ shopping experiences.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.