GWI 6 Trends Preview – QR Code Mania in Asia

We’ve just released the latest tranche of GWI data, GWI6, collected in November 2011, taking our total number of surveyed internet users up to just over 122K. If you are a client you will now find this in your online tool, with a full GWI6 trends deck to follow. Over the next few days we’ll be pre releasing some hi-lights that will underpin the trends.

One of the first interesting nuggets to come out was how QR Codes are used across the world.  Overall, there has been significant increase in the amount that people all across on the world are doing on the mobile phones, but QR codes stood out as one of the most divergent activities.

The contrast is most stark because QR code usage in one of the areas where the Japanese actually lead in terms of penetration. Nearly a third (29%) of Japanese internet users were using QR codes in November 2011.  This was followed by 22% of South Koreans and 17% of Chinese actively using QR codes in November 2011. We can immediately see how this falls into the bigger trend in the continued localization of behaviour when we compare these usage rate to other countries.  Only 8% of American and British internet users are actively using QR codes despite having significant smartphone penetration.  In other emerging markets, QR codes are even less popular with just 6% of Brazilians actively using them and 4% of Russian internet users.

Which of the following have you done on your mobile phone in the past month? Scanned a QR code.

(% of internet users globally, Wave 6 November 2011)
One concept that helps explain this data comes down to one defining variable: alphabet.  The three countries that lead in terms of QR code usage all have logographic character based written systems as opposed to phonetic alphabets used by much of the rest of the world.  As a result, taking a picture of a QR code is much easier than typing in a search term on a smartphone for a Chinese person.  Europeans on the other hand often find it easier to just type in a quick search term as opposed to snapping a picture of a QR code. Of course Asian (in particular) Japanese mobile users have long had QR readers integrated into their handsets. This is coming belatedly to the rest of the world, but not catching on.

Some major brands are already taking advantage of these local market characteristics.  Coca-cola and their “Happiness Quest” campaign in Japan is a great example of how brands are taking advantage of Japanese QR code usage by using them in gamification techniques. Click here for a bit more on that topic. Tesco in Korea has also started a noteworthy virtual-store campaign

This cultural divergence, in particular, illustrates why brands need to be mindful of certain cultural issues in any given market as it could severely affect the effectiveness of any integrated campaign.

1 comment on this post

  1. Jason Lei on

    The GWI data shows us the importance of QR codes, which is always good statistics. What surpriced me however was the outstanding penetration from the Japanese.

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