The Revival of QR Codes

Before the pandemic, when was the last time you used a QR code? Of course, they’ve been around for some time now (since 1994 actually), but they have been more of an afterthought until their sudden revival. You used to have to download a separate app to even be able to scan a QR code, which was more work than it was worth. Now, most smartphones have that functionality natively in their camera apps.

Up until recently, the most common form of QR codes had been used by airlines or social media. Take the United App for example, since 2011, you’ve been able to scan a QR code for your boarding pass instead of printing one. Since 2015, Snapchat has allowed you to share your personalized QR code with other people so they can quickly and easily add you as a friend. This functionality has been around for quite some time, which begs the question, why the sudden revival?


Since the rise in importance of touchless technology, you can find QR codes just about everywhere. On the tables at restaurants to pull up their menu, on the door of a doctor’s office to fill out paperwork, even outside of retail stores to encourage online shopping.

Businesses had to get creative amid the pandemic which resulted in the revival of an old piece of technology for new uses. Looking at the way QR codes are utilized now, it seems almost silly that we haven’t been using them the way China has for decades. QR codes have been benefitting many different businesses, but a few big ones come to mind when it comes down to who has been making the most out of them.


By implementing QR codes, restaurants can easily save on the cost of printing menus and save on sanitation costs. They can also efficiently update their online menu instead of having to reprint new menus every time an item changes. According to Beaconstac, since the pandemic, 52% of restaurants in the U.S. have already switched to QR code menus. As an added bonus, they are able to provide a cashless payment option* which creates a more seamless experience for those dining-in and helps reduce direct contact.


QR codes can provide many different uses for retailers and help to improve customer experience. By providing a QR code that links to your website, you are promoting an easy way to scan and shop. Retailers can even use QR codes to provide discounts for customers, as well as cashless payments* for a quick checkout experience. It is also an easy way to promote buy online pick up in-store and curbside pickup options.

*Popular payment apps like PayPal and Venmo are introducing QR code, touch-free payment options.

Doctors Offices:

QR codes have been popping up everywhere, even in doctor’s offices. Recently, many doctor’s offices and clinics are starting to provide QR codes outside on their doors for patients to check-in to help keep the people in the waiting room to a minimum. They also provide patients a contactless option to fill out paperwork before their visit without having to lift a pen.


To answer the question of “why the sudden revival?”, well, it is a simple piece of technology that most people are able to recognize, but have chosen to ignore until they were forced to not ignore them any longer. Last year, the world got turned on its head, and every business needed to figure out new ways to safely and efficiently serve their customers without making things more difficult.

Universally, QR codes happened to be the answer. Other than the fact that they are easily recognizable, they are a quick and effective way to lead people to the information they are looking for with minimal hassle. They have the ability to link you to a digital asset such as images, videos, or a landing page. They can also be scanned from a physical copy or digitally, making the options endless for where you decide you want to place a QR code. The versatility and cost-effectiveness of QR codes are truly unmatched.


Technology, including the recent rollout of 5G networks, has come a long way since QR codes were first introduced, which has led to many unique uses for them. Many businesses are starting to get creative with how they choose to utilize QR codes.

For example:

  • Spotify created “Spotify Codes” to help users instantly share songs. Artists can even use these codes on their own campaigns to promote their music and increase engagement in a fun way. Spotify Codes provide a more interactive way for people to discover music both old and new.
  • Planet Fitness found a new use for QR Codes at their gyms. They started a program called “scan & learn” where each machine at their gyms has a QR Code that can be scanned in their app and leads you to a ‘how to’ video on how to use the equipment.
  • During the 2020 Video Music Awards (VMAs), Burger King ran a sweepstake that asked viewers to scan a QR Code to activate an AR experience. This experience led individuals to AR versions of the Burger King mascot and rapper Lil Yachty, urging viewers to download the BK app. The immersive experience also activated special coupon offers, entered the user in a drawing for a chance to win a year of free Whoppers, and tickets to the 2021 VMAs.

Source: excerpted from the BK ad


QR codes aren’t dead, they are actually far from it. As technology continues to evolve, businesses will find new and imaginative ways to take advantage of this tool. In this instance, you can teach an old piece of technology new tricks. With the rise of AR, the shift to virtual experiences, and the need for contactless alternatives, we are just seeing the beginning of the revival of these little black and white squares.