8 Popular Ways People Use QR Codes in China

China is one of the world’s top users of QR Codes. Their embracing of this technology has led to QR Codes being used in a variety of clever ways to enhance marketing campaigns and daily life.

China is the world’s second-largest economy and they are also a highly tech-friendly culture. As a result, they are pretty much obsessed with QR Codes. While the US and Europe falter (sadly) behind in QR Code usage, China has taken QR Codes to the next level. It’s been estimated that QR Codes were responsible for $5.61 trillion worth of transactions in 2016 and are showing no signs of slowing down. Both marketers and businesses should look to China when it comes to comprehending just how far QR Code usage can really go.

The popularity of WeChat

You are probably familiar with Whatsapp as an instant messenger, but China has its own version known as WeChat. But its uses expand much further than Whatsapp’s chat functions. WeChat can also be used as a form of payment through its use of QR Codes. QR Code payments had their big break in 2014 when the CEO of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, visited China and decided to add QR Code technology to Snapchat. 

He came back to the US and acquired a company known as “Scan” exactly for this purpose. One year later, they launched “Snapcode”, which made it easy for users to add friends on Snapchat using this code. These codes began showing up on other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. As of 2017, Snap reported users scanning more than 8 million Codes per day for uses like unlocking filters, accessing websites, and adding friends. This process gave QR Codes a spot on the global stage. Consequently, larger online retailers focused on China like Alibaba added QR Codes to their payment systems.

China had long realized the convenience of using QR Codes to pay for pretty much anything. Fast forward to today and WeChat is without a doubt the top app in China, especially considering that 93% of the population there uses it.

A strong emphasis on using QR codes for payment

WeChat includes a function called WeChat Wallet. People in China don’t use cash much anymore because they pay through the QR Codes that WeChat generates through their digital wallets. Users need to connect their Wallet with a bank account and can start spending immediately. 

Basically every type of vendor is using QR Codes to obtain payments. You can use them to rent bikes, do your grocery shopping (even at street stalls!), and even send payments to friends when you need to split the dinner bill.

QR Codes are simply so popular that even beggars are using them to collect donations! 

QR Code security is still an issue

Despite their overwhelming popularity, QR Codes still face a major issue: security. Vendors in China allow payments through scanning QR Codes next to their merchandise. For criminals, this placement makes it easy to swap out with false codes and pay themselves instead. This is a particular problem for rental bikes, and the authorities are having trouble catching offenders until they’ve accumulated a larger income. As of 2018, the government has issued additional security measures for any transaction above 500 yuan (about $4.65) in an effort to stop these criminals.  

8 Ways QR Codes in China are used

QR Codes are being used heavily for online transactions across China. But they’ve found their way into even more clever uses. Take a look at this ingenious list here.

#1 Wedding gift-giving

Offering the bride and groom gifts is an age-old tradition that many people partake in across the globe. China has stepped this up a notch by making it so people can send money through QR Codes. This makes it simple for newlyweds to collect the money in one place and then also have a list for who to send thank you notes to afterwards.

A woman using a QR Code to offer the bride a digital payment instead of a gift. Image by Xinhua, as appeared in Weibo.com

Pro tip: use an Event QR Code to help plan your own wedding and send an Image Gallery QR Code afterwards to all those who visited as a thank you note.

#2 Church donations

Even churches in China have taken note of the wide variety of uses of QR Codes. What better way to appeal to the masses than make a QR Code specifically for church tithes (donations), especially because those without cash can now donate as well.

Church donation box with QR placed on the outside to encourage digital payments. Image by ichanfeng.com, as appeared in a16z.com

Pro tip: Direct users to a landing page to make purchases of any kind using a Dynamic URL Code. Or you can include a link to a preferred payment provider directly such as Paypal. This allows you to track the success of any QR Code campaign and understand the exact conversion rates for products you’d like to sell.

#3 Pet identification

Losing a pet is the absolute worst. Many people in China have started to use QR Codes to add identifying information to their pet tags, to make them easier to locate. While many owners include a phone number or address on pet tags, this doesn’t help if you change any of your contact details. You’re also highly limited for space. A QR Code provides a much better alternative because you can add full details to a digital identity card and update them at any time.

Use QR Codes to identify pets easier

Pro tip: Not only does a vCard Plus QR Code always reveal contact details from your pet, but you can also add additional information such as if your pet requires a certain medicine or has other special needs.

#4 Personal ID cards for senior citizens

Knowing that your loved ones are safe and sound is important for their health and your peace of mind. Hospitals and elderly care centers in China have begun to use QR Codes as identity badges for patients. Particularly for patients with mental issues, having this information could save lives.

An elderly woman identified by her QR code ID badge. Image by China.new

Pro Tip: Using a vCard Plus QR Code works as an ID badge in many personal use situations. If you’re traveling, you can include important and up to date medical information. Or if you are sending your child off to school, if they get lost, they can attach a QR Code to their backpack so parents can be notified.

#5 Information on the source of food items

More and more people are becoming interested in having access to transparent information about where and how their food is processed. China has answered this demand by adding QR Codes to food and beverages so customers can read further information about producers and manufacturers.

Spice up product packaging with QR Codes

Pro tip: There are actually a ton of uses for QR Codes on consumer packaged goods. You can add more product information using a PDF QR Code, increase your social media followers by using a Social Media QR Code, and even provide discounts on special purchases by using a Coupon QR Code.

#6 Billboard advertising

Billboard advertisements are still a common platform for marketing campaigns. But the disadvantage with many types of print marketing is that it can be difficult to calculate the true ROI (return on investment) of print materials. QR Codes help solve this dilemma because they make it possible to track scan metrics in real-time, revealing how successful your billboard advertising actually is.

QR Codes as a part of a billboard advertisement

Pro tip: Dynamic QR Codes are a great addition to any print campaign due to their ability to be both tracked and edited. Tracking metrics include the number of scans, location, time, and operating system of the device used.

#7 Incredible life-size designs

China has gone crazy with inventive QR Code designs at large scale sizes. In this example, created by Yun Nan Wildlife Zoo, they used flowers to create a 20 ft QR Code with a dual purpose: the perfect instagrammable moment, plus a scannable QR Code with access to more information about their panda Sia Ji.

Lifesize flower QR Code made by Yun Nan Wildlife Zoo. Image by Liu Yuyang of xinhuanet.com

Pro tip: Any QR Code made with QR Code Generator includes custom designs. You can individualize frames, colors, logo, CTAs (Call to Action), type of QR Code, and more. The possibilities are endless!

#8 Spicing up print job boards

Job boards are a great way to check out what new jobs are available at locations like a university or office. While print materials convey some information, they are limited in space and can be difficult to read. China has made it possible to access more information digitally by adding QR Codes to postings so that potential candidates can read the full job description with just a quick scan.

Digitize your CV by adding a QR Code

Pro tip: Speaking of jobs, if you’re currently searching for a new job, you can also add a QR Code to your CV using a PDF QR Code. This makes it extremely convenient to send your details to hiring managers when at a busy networking event or conference. This definitely stands out from the typical gigantic stack of papers HR managers have to read through!

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