Are QR codes leaving older Americans behind?

YouGov
June 28, 2021, 2:41 PM UTC

QR codes – once a tech novelty in the early days of camera phones – have become more common as the ability to point your smartphone at an image to get information became more valuable in the COVID-19 era. However some Americans, particularly older adults, still find them hard to use. 

A recent YouGov study found 14% of Americans find QR codes to be difficult to use, with adults over the age of 65+ especially likely to say so (20%). Another 18% of this older demographic have never heard of QR codes. 

Since March 2020, many facets of consumer life, including looking at menus, paying bills, and getting more information about home or car sales, have involved scanning QR (quick response) codes. 

In the last three months, more than half of American consumers have used a QR code at least once at a bar/restaurant, venue or store (55%). Roughly a quarter of those who had never used one prior to the pandemic had used one in the last 90 days (23%). 

More than half (54%) of consumers 18-29 have clicked on a marketing-related QR code, followed by 48% of consumers aged 30-44. This percentage declined to 44% among those 45-64 and 31% of consumers 65 and older. 

“Since 1994, QR codes have made many efforts to become relevant without success,” says Tamara Alesi, YouGov’s sector head of media. “The pandemic changed that. For the first time, QR codes have a real purpose. In a world where ‘touchless’ became a mandate to protect consumer health, the value proposition of the QR code finally became clear to the world at large ... I’d expect that consumer adoption to stick. More so, I think the trees and environment may be thanking QR codes too.” 

Consumers are open to this trend continuing. Three-quarters (75%) of American adults are willing to use more QR codes in the future and this number rose to 82% among adults 18-44, but dipped to 64% of adults over 45.  

59% consider QR codes to be a permanent part of using their phones in the future. 

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Methodology: YouGov polled 1,200 US adults online on June 16 2021, between 12:57 p.m. ET and 4:29 p.m. ET. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, political affiliation, and ethnicity. Results are nationally representative of adults in the United States. The margin of error is 4% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.