For the uninitiated, QR codes are two dimensional barcodes, and can be read by a QR code reader or the camera on a smartphone. The code often directs scanners to a page with more information about whatever prompted the scan to begin with. But QR codes can also exchange information with the scanning device, which is what happens when you use a QR code based boarding pass or airline app, for instance. Now, rather than having a printed ticket, airline staff can scan a QR code on the traveler’s phone to verify the ticket.
QR codes have been around since 1994, and were originally used by car makers to track inventory and component assembly. Eventually, they found their way into the modern consumer experience, though mostly as a novelty. There were some initial issues that kept them from being widely adopted, like the lack of common QR code scanning apps and the fact that they were often a bit temperamental, requiring both the code and the scanning device to be placed precisely.
Fortunately for the events industry, QR code usage is experiencing a renaissance as people are rediscovering the uses of the tech in new ways. Let’s take a look at some of the factors influencing this change.
Better access to QR code technology
The surge in popularity is due in large part to advancements in QR technology and an increase in reliable QR code readers. In the past, QR code readers were standalone instruments designed just for reading QR codes. People who wanted to use them purchased or rented them for that single reason.
Today, there are more tools, many built innately into newer smart devices. For instance, Apple’s iOS 11 camera app doesn’t require QR code reader software — it’s native in the camera. This places a QR scanning device in the hands of the masses. With no learning curve or special equipment required, people can simply scan and be directed to a range of next steps.
This subtle change in accessibility has given birth to a much more efficient way to attain important information. It’s easier for businesses too, since free online QR code generators allow anybody to create a QR code for a broad range of purposes. What may at first glance appear to be a technology of the past is actually one that is taking us into the future.
With increased buy-in and accessibility across various industries, guests are becoming more familiar with how QR codes work and are happy to partake in the smoother guest experience they offer.
Global use and mainstream appeal
Another reason QR codes are seeing a resurgence in popularity is that they’re becoming more mainstream on a global level. Millions of Chinese consumers use QR codes daily, for everything from retail purchases to street vendor food items. Shen Wei, deputy director of a research institute that specializes in QR codes, has said that QR codes accounted for a third of all mobile payments in China last year, for a total of $1.65 trillion. The Bank of Thailand has approved five commercial banks to introduce QR code payment transaction services.
Having passed these litmus tests, companies and industries around the world are starting to embrace QR codes as well. Nike uses QR codes to allow consumers to customize shoes with a few quick clicks. Airlines such as British Airways are adopting them as part of the check-in process to create quicker boarding procedures. Paypal is now using the codes for cashless transactions. And while car manufacturers used them years ago to streamline the parts identification and tracking process, currently, companies like Nissan are repurposing them and using them as part of their marketing materials.
QR codes have proven themselves to be a frictionless transaction method by the likes of Bitcoin, but a perhaps bigger impact on their popularity is their increasing integration into social media and the potential impact in the events space. On Facebook, users have the ability to generate a QR code for an event they’re planning, and the app also contains a built-in QR code-scanning function.
The resurgence of this tech appeals to consumers, but also represents a huge opportunity in the events industry, offering new opportunities to streamline event operations and bolster engagement and participation.