It’s quite the comeback story. 

QR codes, short for quick response codes, were first utilized in the mid-90s by the automotive industry to track vehicles during their manufacturing process. Then in the early and mid-2000s, they made the leap to consumer advertising and marketing, which at the time gained them more popularity and public use.

However, the transition to bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds was not as successful as planned. Problems with easy usability halted any further advancements, and QR codes took a backseat.

That all changed in 2020.

In order to help further reduce everyday physical contact in the pandemic-driven world, QR codes have offered businesses a touch-free way to streamline their information and keep customers engaged. The simple scan of a code can now be used to track user frequency, purchases, interactions, and more.

QR code analytics has opened the way for more advanced marketing engagement and brand awareness, as well as opportunities for new consumer experiences.

So what does this mean for 2021 and beyond?

In this article, we’re taking a look at the rapid rise in QR code usage and how the information collected from scanning them is leading to a deeper analysis of consumer behavior.

Two Types of QR Codes

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, QR codes are a popular 2-dimensional barcode type. They are capable of holding extensive amounts of information when compared to their 1-dimensional counterparts and help eliminate human error. QR codes can be designed to share information, videos, photos, map locations, documents, and more.

A URL is placed into the QR code which then redirects the user to the intended website URL when it is scanned. Before, users would be required to download an app on their smartphones in order to access the code, which acted as a barrier to the growth of QR codes in the modern market and caused their success to stall.

There are 2 types of QR codes: static QR codes and dynamic QR codes

However, advances to smartphone technology have allowed the barcode to be auto-scanned from any open camera app, which then redirects users to the connecting URL.

Two types of QR barcodes exist: static and dynamic. Each one has their own benefits and are better used depending on the task.

Static QR Codes

Static QR codes cannot be overwritten once they have been generated, meaning they are uneditable. They contain coded information that sends users to a fixed destination URL which means they offer very limited functionality. Static QR codes are used in instances where information does not need to be updated, such as one-time events or marketing campaigns, which makes the information unable to be tracked. 

Some types of static QR codes include:

  • Email QR code
  • SMS QR code 
  • Text QR code

An example of a static QR code being used would be for a local community race. Racing bibs for runners that are printed with a static QR code can be scanned for race results once the event has officially ended. Because it is a one-time event, no tracking is necessary.

Dynamic QR Codes

Dynamic QR codes are user-editable, meaning they can still be changed after they have been generated. This helps when fixing mistakes or errors that have occurred, updating information, or changing the URL. Adjustments and changes can also be made to marketing and advertising campaigns that are still running, which saves time and money as it eliminates the need to reprint a new code.

Dynamic QR codes use short URLs. A short URL link is easier to edit and makes the scanning and loading time of the code faster. This is because it is more simple in structure and smaller than the full URL code used to connect the user to the information.

Because they can be used for tracking, dynamic QR codes allow for features and tools such as scan analytics, access management, and device-based redirection.

How Does Dynamic QR Code Tracking Work?

Companies and businesses that want to monitor marketing campaigns and analyze the impact can benefit from using dynamic QR codes. They are inexpensive to create, extremely versatile for a wide variety of uses, and effortless to implement. They can also provide a wealth of information.

Real-Time Tracking

Each time a particular barcode is scanned, the user is redirected through a website that tracks their usage. This provides an abundance of metrics which reveal data in real-time. It also allows for immediate adjustments to be made if something isn’t working right within the campaign.

Digital Analytics 

A wide range of analytics is provided from one single scan of a QR code. This new information is constantly being captured and made available, and can include data such as:

  • Location (i.e. city, state, and country)
  • Number of scans (i.e. total number of scans for one barcode, multiple scans from a single individual)
  • Time of the scan (i.e. hour, day, and month)
  • Frequency (i.e. how often are codes being scanned)
  • Traffic (i.e. increases or decreases to web pages, social media, etc.)

Because of QR code analytics, companies can make necessary changes to improve their marketing efficiency. For example, previous and current campaigns can be compared to see which tactics have a better success rate than others so a business knows what to focus on moving forward. 

Business Insights

The data provided by QR codes has opened many windows for companies and businesses across the board. They can target specific operating systems, such as iOS or Android, consumer products, specific locations, and more to get different metrics which are helpful to their marketing and advertising campaigns. Tracking QR codes monitors scan performance and user insights, allowing these industries to focus on boosting sales, increase their brand presence on social media, and further study customer engagement.

Where are Dynamic QR Codes Being Used?

Companies and businesses that want to monitor marketing campaigns and analyze the impact can benefit from using dynamic QR codes. They are inexpensive to create, extremely versatile for a wide variety of uses, and effortless to implement. They can also provide a wealth of information.

Restaurants & Bars 

A dynamic QR code on a tabletop tent allows users to scan it with their phone to view the menu

One of the most popular places to find QR codes nowadays are restaurants and bars. After reopening after lockdown restrictions, many of these businesses began using QR codes as a business solution.

In order to lessen contact and offer a more touch-free dining experience, restaurants and bars are replacing handheld menus with QR codes. They can be found on stickers or labels affixed to the table, tabletop inserts or tents, signs, flyers, and more. QR codes also mean there are no reprint costs like there would be with paper menus. 

Restaurant and bar patrons are able to scan QR codes which launches them to a corresponding webpage where they offer options such as:

  • Viewing menu items
  • Ordering
  • Contactless payments

Air Travel 

Because airports deal with extremely large numbers of the population, finding ways to streamline the steps in the traveling process during the pandemic were necessary to maintain business. Communicating through digital channels is allowing businesses and brands to create an all around safer environment for travelers while building their trust.

Travelers are able to use QR codes when checking-in and as a paperless boarding pass. Since many airlines allow passengers to check-in ahead of time, they create a barcode that can be used once they arrive at the airport. This helps reduce wait times so people are able to make it through the security process faster to get to their flight.


While QR codes have been on the rise in the retail business for a few years now, the pandemic has only helped expand their use. These codes have allowed brick-and-mortar locations to compete with e-commerce by giving them a competitive edge in both digital and multi-channel marketing. 

Apparel stores are placing QR codes in their storefront windows, which lets customers scan the code to view store items or link to discount offers and coupons. QR codes can also be placed inside store locations to give customers a more interactive experience. One scan can link customers to a store map or lead them to new products or displays for better customer engagement. QR codes have even found their way onto apparel tags which can provide a further explanation about the product, such as material details or manufacturing information. 

QR codes in stores can also offer contactless shopping and payment options. Customers can scan QR codes next to items they wish to purchase and pay for them with their smartphone at the checkout, helping to streamline the entire shopping process.

What This Means Going Forward

Unlike the first time QR codes tried to infiltrate the marketing and advertising world, their current use doesn’t seem to be slowing down as more companies, stores, and brands continue to turn to them as a prominent business solution. According to Statista, by the end of 2021 around 11 million households will scan a QR code.

Businesses will now be able to utilize QR code analytics to have a clearer understanding of their consumer base. They can witness how successful their content is, plan advertising and marketing campaigns based on past and current metrics, and ultimately have a better way of understanding user behavior more accurately and lead them to targeting and retargeting consumers.

Website Heat Mapping

One tool that can be combined with QR code analytics is heat mapping. 

Heat maps show the most and least popular elements of a webpage through colorized visuals, with the most popular sections appearing in red and the least popular sections appearing in blue. This visualization helps facilitate data analysis with an understanding of how users interact with a web page once they are sent thereafter scanning a QR code. These interactions can include what users click on, how far down they scroll, what they ignore, where they move on the page, etc.  

For example, say a restaurant has been using dynamic QR codes to send customers to their website and wants to analyze the data they are receiving. They can use a heat mapping tool to determine which areas of the menu are accumulating the most attention compared to others that aren’t. 

Another example would be a clothing retailer. Once customers scan a QR code and link to their website, they can use heat mapping to see what products are receiving the most and least clicks, as well as what percent of their web page is actually being scrolled.

Businesses can use the data collected from QR codes to see where their consumers are spending the most amount of time and identify trends which can be optimized for further engagement.


QR codes, especially dynamic QR codes, have become an invaluable investment tool. With access to mobile smartphones continuing to increase, the appeal of using QR codes in the modern market is likely to become the new normal and with it, a wealth of ever-evolving information.