The Astonishing Rise Of The QR Code During Covid-19

February 17, 2021

Right now, QR codes are everywhere. But it wasn’t always like this. Those black and white barcode-style squares have been around for a while - invented in 1994, rising slowly in popularity throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, before seeming to die out over the past couple of years - but were mostly regarded as a gimmick, as a way to transmit non-essential marketing information to the user. 

COVID-19 changed all this. Or, more specifically, in the UK, the revival of the QR code can be attributed to the government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme in August, in which restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, and hotels needed a way to deliver an experience that was as touch-free as possible. A laminated menu, touched by numerous different customers, was no longer acceptable, meaning it was time for the QR code to step up. 

After all, practically everyone in the UK has a smartphone capable of interacting with QR codes. And modern phones make it a lot easier than ever, integrating QR code technology into the camera and removing the need to download a dedicated app. Point your camera at the image, click the link, and you’re instantly taken to the menu. Not only can the customer browse the menu in most cases, they can even pay through this method, but also QR code removes the need for potentially-contaminated bank cards and card machines to be passed around. 

If a hospitality establishment wanted to survive post-lockdown, it was essential to introduce QR codes to their ordering system. As existing solutions go, this tech was the fastest and most straightforward option, and businesses signed up in record numbers. People were able to interact with the world around them using only their smartphones, drastically easing infection concerns. Even the UK government got involved, with the NHS Test and Trace service’s new app working with QR codes at venues to track where users had been and letting them know if they’d been put at risk. 

There are other advantages to using QR codes. As an entirely digital tool, it reduces the need for paper and plastic. No need to print out hundreds of new menus when they can be updated in the digital realm with the click of a button. 

And this technology won’t go away, even when or if a vaccine is eventually created. The idea of touch-free ordering will be embedded into the public psyche as the safest and easiest way to choose meals and drinks when on a night out. In a matter of months, QR codes have been transformed from a mostly-overlooked technology to an essential part of British life.  

The frictionless experience that QR codes offer will be desirable for years to come. After all, frictionless means ‘more convenient,’ and at heart, that’s the ultimate goal of technology. In 2020, the QR code finally came into its own, and every smart business and consumer has quickly learned how to use this simple but effective technology to navigate this confusing - and sometimes frightening - coronavirus era. 

Penetration of QR codes into our daily lives have been accelerating since the early days of pandemics. Learn how to use them for your marketing strategy.

Read More