College Students and QR Codes Don't Mix

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about what it’s like to not scan QR codes since I don’t have a smartphone. But recently I discovered that not having a smartphone might not be what’s really keeping my general demographic from scanning QR codes.

Students scanning QR codes

I’m a fairly recent college grad, and on campus I never really heard much about QR codes. As it turns out, that’s pretty normal for college students, according to a survey done by Archrival Youth Marketing. Archrival worked with 24 colleges in the U.S. and surveyed over 500 students about QR codes, and they compiled their findings in this infographic.

Perhaps the most surprising result is that 81.1% of students said they had a smartphone, but 58.1% said they were “very unlikely” to scan a QR code if they came across one. This question is, admittedly, a bit vague, but it still suggests that college students aren’t very interested in QR codes.

What interests me most is that only 21.5% of the students could actually scan a code when asked. Now, do students have a hard time scanning codes because they’re simply not interested in them, and therefore never figured out how to do it? Or do they avoid scanning QR codes because they’re a pain to actually scan?

Usability appears to be a problem when it comes to the college student experience of QR codes. My experience of trying to scan a code is very limited, of course, but now I wonder how off-putting it is to simply try to scan one. For a while I thought that taking a picture of a QR code would scan it, but I learned otherwise from my coworker, Jonathan Levey—who incidentally wrote an informative blog about QR codes from a technical perspective. Anyway, this shows that misconceptions about QR codes do persist.

From what I’ve learned, I think the success of using QR codes in marketing campaigns depends on their conveyed value and the ease of trying to scan them. Essentially, what scanners need is more information—a reason to scan the code and instruction on how to do it.


*Image provided by Michael M Grant on Flickr

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