The return of the QR code – Why it’s big news for marketeers

| October 2, 2017 | By

The once dismissed QR code is back with a bang. Apple’s latest iOS update gives the iPhone the ability to scan QR codes without the need of third-party apps – a  clear nod to the fact that the QR code is a secure method of payment and a credible way for brands to share information with customers. This is big news for marketeers, says Yoyo marketing manager Jess Carroll.  

Stumbling across a new phone feature is like finding a hidden gem. Remember the moment you discovered time stamps on iMessage (swipe left) or when you found the ability to turn on “Night Shift” mode?

Well, the latest gem-finding moment…the iOS 11 update just gave the iPhone the ability to scan QR codes without the need of third-party apps!

Why this is a big deal for retailers?

  • It’s estimated $1.65 trillion passed through mobile QR code payments in Asia in 2016

  • In China, 70% of restaurant transactions could soon pass through mobile QR payment

  • 34% of smartphone users in the US have scanned a QR code

  • 500 million+ consumers will soon have the QR feature update on their iPhone

So what is a QR code?

A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a 2D barcode that can only be read by a camera on a smartphone or QR dedicated device. Like clicking a link on a website, QR codes allow users in the physical world to gain information quickly. Users simply scan a 2D code and related-information will instantly appear on their smartphones.

How are QR codes used by marketeers?

Below are six different ways QR codes are currently being used in day-to-day life:


Alipay, used by 520 million people, is a staple of shopping in China. Shoppers simply scan the QR code presented at the till and the correct amount will automatically be debited from their account.

Dynamic security

When using Yoyo, customers scan a dynamic QR code, which represents a secure one-time identity token for the user which regenerates offline every 30 seconds. The Yoyo platform runs the same token generation algorithm to ensure the presented QR code is not only allocated to a genuine user, but also matches the time of the transaction.


Clark Memorial Hospital in the US uses QR codes to identify patients, improve record keeping, monitor medicine stocks, decrease medication administration errors and improve patient safety.


Norfolk’s Cancer Charity upgraded its fundraising methods this year when a QR code was added to the side of their collection boxes. With more people going contactless, spare change is becoming harder to find at the right moment. Now, anyone walking past a collection box can quickly scan the QR and choose how much they wish to donate through their smartphones.

App downloads

Directing consumers to download an app can be tricky when your face-to-face – providing the correct name and link is a clumsy process. QR codes removes this clumsiness – customers can quickly scan a QR code and have your app ready to download on their smartphones in seconds.


In September 2017, fashion and lifestyle retailer Cath Kidston launched “Colour” QR codes in store as part of a collaboration with Pinterest. Customers could scan individual colour QR code on any of the brand’s new bag range and discover the inspiration behind the new collection.

How will this affect UK retail?

While QR codes are already playing a huge role in the daily life of consumers in China and Korea, they have so far had little impact in the UK or mainland Europe. Some marketing strategists even said QR codes “were dead” due to increasingly better app technology.

But the latest iOS update is a clear nod from Apple that QR codes are a credible and secure way of sharing information. As one commentator put it, QR codes just got “cool again”.

Not convinced? Mobile and online payment platform Alipay, the leading user of QR payments in China, has just signed a deal in the US that details plans for 4 million businesses, including Starbucks, to start using their services.

However you decide to implement them in your business, QR codes are a great way of making that leap between the physical and digital world more seamless. What’s more, Apple has just made it even easier.

Want to see it in action?

Grab your iPhone, open the camera and point it at the code at the top of this blog (make sure you’re on iOS11!). It should lead you to a pretty cool app, even if we do say so ourselves.

Jess joined Yoyo as marketing manager in August 2016 after more than four years working agency-side in media, retail and charity marcomms.

At Yoyo, she has helped develop the company’s marketing strategy, with a particular focus on lead generation and nurturing efforts.

You can reach Jess at