Everything You Need to Know About QR Codes For Augmented Reality

An augmented reality QR Code is a type of QR Code that initiates an augmented reality (AR) experience. It allows the user to interact with specific digital content, from videos, images, 3D models, and more, that get projected on top of real-life environments.   

The combination of QR Code technology and AR can open up a sea of opportunities, making an enhanced reality more accessible to the user. It’s always an exciting prospect when two sophisticated technologies merge. 

This article is about all things related to this ordained union: the AR QR Code. We will look at the impact this new emerging technology can make and showcase a few brilliant AR QR Code campaign ideas and use cases to tease your imagination. Just picture how AR can make QR Code ads even more interactive, more entertaining, and more engaging for the user. That is only the beginning. 

One caveat: We aren’t able to create QR Codes for augmented reality (yet!) but we’ll keep you posted. In the interim, we want to get familiar with the technology. So, let’s take a look.

What is augmented reality?

Before we dive into the technical aspects of an AR QR Code, it’s important to determine what augmented reality actually is. AR, in a nutshell, is a modification of reality. As the name suggests, it augments a user’s perspective of the world by digitally enhancing it. The user experiences a mixed reality, or rather an added layer of dimension on top of their physical environment.

What makes AR QR Codes and QR Codes different from each other?

QR Codes and AR QR Codes are actually similar in nature but have different features and functions. They can be described as part of the same barcode family.

The difference in appearance

Not all AR QR Codes are made equal. So while some AR QR Codes may look identical to QR Codes, other AR QR Codes have a tiny AR marker in the center of the square. See if you can spot the difference between the AR Code and our QR Code below.

One black and white AR QR Code next to a black and white QR Code against a blue background
An AR QR Code and QR Code side by side.

The differences in function

AR QR Codes and QR Codes both need a camera to read and trigger their respective digital experiences. The difference lies in what happens after the Codes are scanned. Scanning QR Codes delivers 2D online content that typically directs users to websites, landing pages, and so on. 

Conversely, AR QR Codes superimpose digitally enhanced content on physical environments. So, if QR Codes transport users from the physical to the digital, AR QR Codes fuse these worlds, enabling user immersion in both worlds simultaneously.

Like QR Codes, there are different types of AR QR Codes too. Some need a separate application to trigger an experience, while others are powered by web AR browsers that aren’t dependent on apps.

3 reasons why you should use QR Codes for augmented reality

Although augmented reality has become mainstream in the entertainment industry, it’s also becoming more omnipresent in the business world. Here are some things to keep in mind as you learn more about how using augmented reality with QR Codes can benefit your business no matter what industry you’re in.

#1 Invites more user immersion

Using augmented reality with QR Codes is an appealing way to attract younger, more tech-savvy generations. This is true not only for the technophile but for the everyday consumer. Findings from Threekit show that AR has been on an upward boom in the retail industry, so much so that 71% of consumers admit they would shop more if they used AR. 

Pairing augmented reality with QR Codes allows consumers to access the features of a product virtually before they make a purchase. But it isn’t just about the end of a customer’s journey for tech natives — it’s about the experience. When consumers are able to “try on” products by simply using their smartphones, it opens up a different avenue of engaging with products.

AR QR Codes have the potential to transform mundane shopping experiences into novel ones merely by giving customers a glimpse of your products. AR can inspire customers to do something out of the ordinary; for example, your customer may experiment with bolder shades of lipstick than they would in a physical store, or try on edgy leather jackets they’d never try on in person. The possibilities are endless for the experiences you can offer your customers. 

AR opens up the stage for your customer to experiment and play with your products — to go beyond their imagination, from visualizing how they would look to embodying how they would feel when using your products.

#2 Creates brand engagement

The evergrowing uptick in mobile usage in tandem with consumers’ growing interest in augmented reality experiences can be majorly advantageous for brands. This is an opportunity for brands to create deeper connections with their customers. 

Many brands have already turned to augmented reality and have seen impressive results — from boosting impressions, improving customer retention, increasing brand visibility, and much more.

If we take one passionate family-led winemaking company as an example, we can see how augmented reality coupled with QR Codes can create a more tangible connection between customer and brand. Using an augmented reality QR Code, the mission-driven wine connoisseurs found an innovative medium to communicate their brand story. With a thoughtful and entertaining approach, they helped customers understand their unique process of winemaking.

Using this tech can offer countless creative opportunities to communicate your brand message and open up more engagement between the customer and brand, personalizing the customer experience.

#3 Boosts customer confidence

Consumers may feel skeptical about buying products from brands they don’t know. But AR has found a way to mitigate that risk by removing the element of uncertainty when making a purchase. How? AR allows brands to present more accurate visual representations of their products, meaning customers can get a real sense of the product to help them make purchasing decisions.

What a marvelous opportunity it is for brands to get customers to spend more time browsing and digitally trying on their products! AR QR Codes can facilitate this process of making the path to purchase one that’s not only positive, but memorable.

Threekit’s research shows us that augmented reality can boost conversion rates by up to 40%, reduce customer returns, and improve customer satisfaction. Suffice it to say, the psychological experience of “trying on” products risk-free seems to lead to positive outcomes.

5 QR Code augmented reality examples to inspire you

Now here comes the fun part. We’ve curated some cool augmented reality QR Code examples so you can take a ride in a user’s chair. Discover the potential of AR QR Codes and get inspired to create immersive, mind-expanding, and interactive customer experiences!

#1 3D QR Code augmented reality experiences for furniture stores

One snazzy outdoor furniture store has found a way to stay ahead of the curve by implementing AR experiences in its virtual shop. Online shoppers can now experience the same joy of an in-store experience from the cozy comfort of their homes, enhancing the online shopping experience.

Customers who scan the AR QR Code on the website can visualize the product they desire in a 3D model projected onto their home environments. This helps shoppers make informed purchasing decisions without second-guessing the dimensions and size of their piece of furniture.

Not only can this save time and eliminate the risk of returning an item to the store, but it can also transform the customer experience. Shoppers get to see how a new piece of fabulous furniture fits into the aesthetic of their house with more accuracy before they purchase it. They can then gauge their level of satisfaction with the product before checking out, or continuing to browse until they find their perfect match.

Turning the online shopping experience on its head in this way makes the time between browsing and the point of purchase a fun, convenient, and engaging experience. This gamified experience makes purchasing furniture online a breeze, becoming something customers can even look forward to.

#2 New-age QR Code AR tech for print media

Bridging print media with digital media is akin to combining your two favorite ice cream flavors, with one flavor complementing the other. It just so happens that QR Codes are experts in blending these two media types — and augmented reality is adding even more digital possibilities. This could change the way we engage with text and images, and print media as a whole, breathing new life into print

Imagine scanning a pixelated square that directs you to audio. Or, instead of reading long chunks of wordy paragraphs, the text becomes a video, making the topic more digestible. Merging all these virtual experiences in print media creates an enhanced experience, where the user employs more of their senses to either interact with an ad, dive deeper into a text, or understand information more in-depth.

Bringing more personality into print media also triggers a more emotive experience, making your print media more memorable, creating more interactive experiences, and prompting more action from the user. Combining QR Codes and augmented reality can make a great impact on the print industry, from books and magazines to newspapers.

An iPad hovering over a novel with an AR QR Code on top of it.
An AR QR Code opens up an interactive reading experience.

#3 Bringing an augmented reality QR Code to the food industry

Captivating your customers by incorporating AR QR Codes into your marketing strategy is highly beneficial for customer engagement. But staying ahead of the pack can prove tricky. 

This is why merging QR Codes with augmented reality can be the perfect pair: You can invite more hungry customers to your restaurant or food chain and also ramp up the online traffic on your food app. This flips the script on the dining experience altogether. 

Imagine a next-level menu that, when scanned, leads to a 3D food menu. Or being able to  manage your customers’ expectations by showing them the exact portion size through a 3D model while browsing through your food menu online

Perhaps you’d like to amp up the marketing on a new mouthwatering dish that hasn’t gained much popularity yet. This is the time to shoot video content of your top chef showing off their culinary finesse. Adding an AR QR Code to your restaurant’s website, window, or social media page that links to immersive food content is a captivating way to hold your audience’s attention.

Using QR Codes for augmented reality experiences in the food or restaurant industry can not only stimulate more interest in your food online but also bring more novelty into the gastronomical experience.

A person using the smartphone to scan Neon Burgers AR-empowered menu which activates an overlay of a 3D burger meal.
An AR-empowered menu opens up a AR experience.

#4 QR Code AR experiences for packaging

Product packaging is often one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing. Beyond the practicalities of protecting the product, your packaging is an important means of communicating who you are as a brand. The devil is in the details. 

One can’t deny that consumers now expect more from retail shopping experiences: They desire awe-inspiring experiences and want to be fully informed about your product. As such, it’s important to consider these factors when rethinking packaging. Enter QR Codes and augmented reality — a new digital method of brand communication! 

AR QR Codes are a vehicle to educate, entertain, or inform customers about your product, without crowding up the space. They also create an element of suspense while opening up your product — cue the theatrics! Reinventing the customer experience beyond the physical aspects of the package opens up limitless creative potential for brands. What an exciting prospect! 

Going the extra mile by adding a video or an animation, or whatever makes the most sense to you as a brand, can bring a cinematic feel that leaves a lasting impression on your customers. Essentially, you have a blank digital canvas to really wow your audience. See the potential of what you can do when you combine QR Codes and augmented reality in the visual below.

A character displayed on a smartphone next to Shuriken Chronicles packaging
Shuriken Chronicles packaging opens up an interactive user experience.

#5 Reimagining retail experiences with an augmented reality QR Code

While the world was in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, a luxury fashion brand saw an opportunity. They were committed to amplifying the online shopping experience for their customers, so they turned to augmented reality. 

Catering to their target audience, the fashionistas introduced their new spring footwear collection in 2021, quelling the longings of customers stuck at home. They knew they had to do something unprecedented, something that would rival the retail experience in their brick-and-mortar stores.

So, the company invented a unique and immersive AR experience for customers to view footwear from 360-degree angles in the form of a printed lookbook — but this lookbook has a digital twist. The pages of the book are filled with photos of models wearing the new sleek line of shoes, emulating the experience of an in-person fashion show. Some of the pages have a depiction of a play button and an AR QR Code. 

Once scanned, users can view the 3D model of the sandal collection. The different functions allow you to zoom in, rotate the shoes from all angles, and tap on shoes you want to get a feel for before purchasing — all on the digital stage from the comfort of your home.

Advancing online shopping by using QR Codes and augmented reality enables customers to still enjoy a luxurious shopping experience, making up for the lost in-store experience. Luxury brand or not, combining QR Codes with augmented reality is a worthwhile investment that can create a personalized experience for your customers.

A person holding an iPad with a model displayed on top of the screen hovering over a lookbook.
A glimpse of the fictional brand Elle Boutique’s interactive lookbook.

Final thoughts

AR opens up a world of possibilities across a range of industries, from print media to advertising, food, and retail, just to name a few. Ben Housten, founder of Threekit, forecasts that “AR is going to become ubiquitous to the point of becoming an integrated expectation of the buying experience.”

Consumer expectations are undoubtedly shifting towards AR. Considering that consumers are already familiar with the flow of scanning QR Codes to trigger a digital experience, using QR Codes for AR is seemingly a natural trajectory to unlocking more user-friendly AR experiences. Stay tuned to learn more about the merging of augmented reality and QR Codes!

Robyn Albertyn

Robyn Albertyn is a content writer for Bitly from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s previously written about preventative health and wellness, and specializes in creative writing and copywriting. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hiking up majestic mountains, or discovering the best coffee hotspots in her city. Feel free to say hi to her on LinkedIn.

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