Remember the 2022 Coinbase Super Bowl ad that had viewers wondering, “Why is a QR code bouncing around my screen?” Fueled by industry and pandemic forces, quick response (QR) codes have shot (back) onto the scene, appearing at every stage in the customer lifecycle to help consumers learn about new brands, get product details, initiate a transaction, participate in a contest, join loyalty activities, access a menu, register for testing, and much more. Not surprisingly, last year, 56% of US online adults used QR codes, up from 1% in 2010, according to Forrester’s December 2021 Consumer Energy Index And Retail Pulse Survey.

Brands: First, Get Your QR ducks In A Row

But brands, beware: Although QR codes are free to create, they require time, budget, and staff to run effective campaigns and maintain content to deliver relevant customer experiences. For our recent research, QR Codes Make A Comeback, we analyzed more than 125 QR codes (on in-store signage, packaging, products, magazine ads, direct mailers, cars, and even garbage cans) to determine best practices to improve customer experiences with QR codes.

Instead of using QR codes whenever and wherever, companies should identify where in the consumer journey they could provide utility or create a more streamlined experience. QR codes bridge physical and digital environments, so brands must tap into multidisciplinary teams across customer experience, design, product, marketing, advertising, sales, retail, and more. Follow these “QR codes 101” best practices:

  • Instruct consumers how to scan QR codes. As you create communication materials, consider your target audience’s comfort with scanning QR codes. Design for the level of consumer instructional need.
  • Clearly communicate the value of scanning the code, then deliver the promised value. Include a clear call to action with your QR code to inform consumers why they should scan and what will happen upon scanning, then create a connected experience by matching the call to action to a landing page.
  • Minimize the number of steps to arrive at the end result. QR codes are convenient only if they offer the fewest steps possible to complete the promised workflow.
  • Refresh landing page content. Brands can easily change web content — so you should update information, fix mistakes, or make it seasonally relevant. Keep it fresh and relevant.

With these QR code basics, you won’t fall into the QR code trap of no context, no directive, and a malfunctioning website unable to handle the influx of traffic. Beyond the basics, brands can also implement several tactics to achieve what we deemed “wow” status in our research. To learn more, read the full report here. Forrester clients, please schedule an inquiry with us.


(Kara Wilson, senior research associate, contributed to this blog post.)