QR Code Usage by Country: Use-Cases Around the World

QR Code popularity has quadrupled in the last couple of years. Companies worldwide have begun embracing these square grids as the marketing wizards that they are. Moreover, people are taking creative routes to infuse them in their art, ad campaigns, and even drone lighting performances, proving there’s a QR Code solution for anything. 
In this article, we’ll be looking at QR Code usage by country, and here’s the fun part: we’ll also be taking you on a trip around the globe to discover the unique ways different countries have used these two-dimensional barcodes. Are you ready for a QR Code voyage around the world? Fasten your seatbelts and let the tour commence!

Which countries use QR Codes?

The application of QR Code technology grew by 96% from 2018 to 2020. China, India, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, the US, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, and the UK have become avid users of the QR Code. 

And while these black and white squares have had their fair share of peaks and valleys, growing pains are totally normal, even expected. Now, they’re in their prime—showing no signs of decline anytime soon. So why are QR Codes popular around the globe? 

Digital payments are more accessible 

Companies worldwide are going cashless. They’re opting for contactless payments with QR Codes which allow for seamless in-store and virtual customer experiences from a wide range of industries. 

China and India were early adopters of using QR Codes for payments but we can expect it to expand globally: QR Code based payments are projected to rise worldwide from $2.4 trillion in 2022 to $3 trillion by 2025. This is bound to increase QR Code usage by country. Cashless society, here we come! 

The influx of smartphone use 

Smartphone possession continues to rise globally, and although varying in more developing countries, there’s still an upward spiral and a boost in QR Code popularity. 

In tandem with smartphone ownership, mobile devices have also evolved. In other words, smartphones have become more intelligent—initiated by the iOS11 update in 2017. 

This enabled users to scan QR Codes via a native QR Code scanner, which can read on a camera or a third-party app, making it easier to scan black and white images on anything from a gigantic drone QR Code in the sky to a small QR Code business card.  

Booming royalty programs

There are a few appealing reasons why consumers love coupons, one is that they love saving a buck and the other is that it generally makes them happy—everyone gets a kick out of getting a discount. 

Even better is that QR Code technology creates an easy and convenient way to redeem coupons through a Coupon QR Code. And it’s coming at an opportune time: the forecast shows that the redemption of QR Code coupons via mobile phones will jump to 5.3 billion, this year in 2022. Companies have nothing to lose: more QR Code coupons, more sales!  

QR Code usage by country: a seven-country expedition 

But enough talk about the data—you were promised a QR Code journey around the world, and we have 7 stops along the way! So without further ado, let’s head to our first destination. First stop: America. 

#1 United States of America

We’ve entered the land of picturesque landscapes, the home of Super Bowl Sunday, and the cornerstone of entertainment. When 81% of adults in the US own a smartphone, it’s easy to predict why QR Code popularity has skyrocketed here. More access, more scans.

A recent QR Code that caught our eye is from the world-famous space agency, NASA. They whipped up something special for all of us earthlings to commemorate Earth Day: they created an artistic masterpiece of a poster

But not the conventional type of display—it was the kind that has just a touch of innovation that makes it known that we are here to celebrate our beloved blue ball. 

This year’s highly engaging poster features 17 QR Codes scattered around, forming a road map. Each square is numbered, unveiling a secret clue that can only be unlocked by scanning. 

The whole design concept of the poster has been intricately thought out—from the virtual poster that replaces paper to the QR Codes opening up the interaction for those on board to learn. Scan the codes and you’re in for an educational road trip about Climate Science and NASA’s earth. 

The integrated QR Codes direct users to a combination of resources of website links and videos. And as a matter of fact, these tiny squares have two solutions that we recognize: a Dynamic URL QR Code and a Video QR Code. This year NASA knocked it out of the park. Brava! 

Now onward to our next stop: India. 

#2 India

India, the land of tea plantations and spices, vast landscapes, and fragrant curries, has also opened its arms to the ubiquitous use of the square grid. One of the unique use-cases that stood out to us was how the Siddhartha College of Arts and Sciences, in the botany department used QR Codes as an educational tool. 

The faculty decided to plant little pixelated squares among the trees and leaves in the botanical gardens. Students are already inundated with information so this innovative method supports students’ learning, opening up a different way to digest information. 

When scanned, students learn about the scientific name and medicinal properties of the plant or tree. This scan-to-learn formula is a fantastic fusion for immersive learning; instead of them burying their heads in textbooks, they’re closer to the source of information. 

The fieldwork effect gives them an experience beyond the classroom so that anyone who walks by can grow their botanical knowledge by merely a scan. For more education and tech ideas, check out our page on how to use a QR Code for school, or our blog on using QR Codes in the classroom. Let’s takeoff to our next stop: Brazil.  

#3 Brazil 

Entering the land of breathtaking natural wonders, celebratory festivals, and grandiose architecture, Brazil is a showstopper. This drop-dead-gorgeous country even managed to elevate the look of QR Codes, making them elegant as ever via mosaic tiles. And boy do these tiles tell a story. 

On the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the city has carved QR Codes on its mosaic tiles to share the rich history of Brazil. One of the first QR Codes etched into the ground can be found at Arpoador, a boulder, nearing the end of Ipanema beach, a surfers corner, known for riding the best waves. 

Scanning the code tells you info about the history of the beach and rocks—bringing beach geology to life. Believe us when we tell you, it’s a must-scan! Taking these black and white patterns into the streets has turned ordinary pavements into historical chronicles. 

Learn how using a QR Code for travel boosts the tourism industry on our website for more hot tips! Now, let’s head north, to the island of Great Britain. 

#4 United Kingdom 

We admit we’re cheating a little—the UK is 3 and a half countries mashed into one big sovereign state but we couldn’t resist. Venturing out into the state made up of Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Island, The UK is infamously known for its prolific writers, world-class pop stars, and proud sports inventors. 

Although slow adopters of the four-sided-shaped grid, they eventually caught up with the zeitgeist. A recent QR Code idea that piqued our curiosity is Beatson Cancer Charity’s fundraiser. They made a dream team with Good Thyngs, a digital fundraising platform, to broaden their scope of donor reach and engage them by using a variety of methods. 

Beatson offered their annual donors an irresistible reward system—a Beatson Reward card for discounts on hotels, spas, restaurants, and more. The Beatson reward card even has a special touch: a QR Code ready to be scanned for a good time. 

The QR Codes help donors access discount codes quickly so donors can receive their well-earned reward—all for a good cause! Looking for more input on how to create a QR Code for donations? Head over to our page. Next stop: Spain. 

#5 Spain 

Approaching the land of gastronomic paradise, Flamenco, and siesta, Spain is a cultural hot spot. One of the stand-out innovative uses of QR Codes originates from the artistic city of Barcelona. 

The main public transit operator in Barcelona, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) came up with a brilliant concept to help the visually impaired and blind navigate around the city. 

TMB worked with the Mobile Vision Lab of the University of Alicante and company Navilens to create inclusive digital signage; a multicolor design of stickers that uses QR Codes to alert users with an audible message in real-time. 

The low vision and blind can use their smartphones to detect the QR Codes from 15 meters away—even if the user is moving around. The code is automatically sensed by the NaviLens app and the user is alerted by a vibration and audio message. 

This navigation system for the visually impaired and blind can guide them in exploring the city more confidently—and do so more independently. 

Thanks to the tech of augmented reality and QR Code technology, these audible maps open up inclusive and accessible spaces for the partially sighted and blind, so that the city can be safely explored by everyone. 
Learn more about how QR Code stickers work on our page. Next destination: Germany.

#6 Germany 

Just a sneeze away from Spain, we enter into the land of bread and beer, fairy tale towns, and tech development. Turns out, Germany has been leading the way for QR Codes in Europe since 2010 and there’s nothing stopping this upward spiral. 

A recent QR Code use case we want to put the spotlight on is about an important campaign called “Gaffen Tötet,” meaning “Gawking Kills”. The campaign draws attention to the new law that passed in January 2021, which makes it illegal for onlookers of accidents to capture footage of emergency situations.  

To spread awareness of not only the new law but also to prevent bystanders from interfering with medical emergencies, Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe, a German ambulance service put QR Codes on their ambulance vehicles and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) equipment. 

As soon as any observers point their camera in the direction of the code, they’ll automatically be directed to a webpage warning message, that reads: “Stop! Gawking kills!” The message may come across as urgent and serious but the penalty for this crime can lead to a 2-year prison sentence. So far, the campaign has been successful in discouraging illegal acts of photography during emergencies. 

#7 China

What’s a roundabout trip without a trip to the Orient? The home of pandas, the inventors of chopsticks, and known for the mythical creature of the dragon, not to mention a tech superpower, China has made QR Codes part of their diet.

Famous for wowing the world with big advertising campaigns that grab the attention of the globe, QR Code popularity in China is unquestionable.

This may not be a recent QR Code use case, but still, an impressive example of China’s fascination with QR Codes. China lit up a tunnel in a shopping center with 400 hundred scannable pixelated squares. On all four sides of the tunnel, beaming QR Codes attracted the attention of shoppers. 

The illuminated tunnel of squares in Nanjing made the Xinhua TV news and was reported to project an image of high tech and attract younger customers. One news report shared that these bright-eyed 400 QR Codes were part of a campaign to promote iconic brands and creative games in China. Now, this is the kind of tunnel vision we can work with! 
Not only is the artistic design of this QR Code tunnel futuristic, but it can also drive foot traffic to online and brick-and-mortar stores, increasing brand awareness and sales. A shop QR Code in shopping centers is marking the future of retail—watch this space.

Investigating QR Code usage by country demonstrates that each country has its own unique spin on it. Whether used for educational purposes, advertising, or spreading awareness, these symmetrical squares can be shapeshifted into anything—virtual and non-virtual alike.  You may travel far and wide and still, there’s a never-ending list of QR Code ideas to add to your itinerary. Once you’ve got the QR Code bug, there’s no turning back.

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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