COVID-19 QR Code Usage Worldwide: Detailed Statistics Report

Update:  March 06, 2024
COVID-19 QR Code Usage Worldwide: Detailed Statistics Report

QR code usage accelerates when the pandemic hits. That is why it is important to look at the QR code statistics before and after Covid-19.

QR code is the shorthand for Quick Response code, a two-dimensional barcode that is readable by smartphones.

Created in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes have existed for 26 years, but their massive adoption happened recently when the pandemic took off worldwide.

At present, QR codes are now used in many contexts.

Although it is widely used in marketing and information sharing, it becomes even more popular when it is used to make mobile payments, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

It is even used by restaurant industries as the need for contactless menus surges.

Thus, QR code is rapidly arriving at high levels of acceptance globally.

That being said, you might be wondering about the exact numbers of the ongoing trend of QR code usage before and after Covid-19 today.

Why is looking at trends for QR codes important?

As the consciousness of health and safety increases due to the pandemic, the need for contactless interactions becomes vital more than ever.

Looking at the trends for QR code usage allows us to see how technology adoption accelerated when the pandemic hit.

Statistics sheet

The QR code Covid-19 statistics report also tells us that traditional methods are no longer an option as health measures become stringent.

Here are the exhaustive lists of QR code statistics from reports and databases.

QR code COVID-19 statistics report: Usage before COVID-19

QR code didn’t seem to catch on back around 2010 when it was first starting to be widely used.

The primary reason was the high barrier to entry.

Moreover, at that time, not many people owned smartphones, and those who did often had to download a third-party app to read the codes.

In June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the US scanned a QR code on their smartphones.

This is about 6.2% of the total mobile audience in that country.

58% percent did so from their home, while 39.4 %percent did so from a retail store, and 24.5 percent did so from a grocery store.

Nearly 20% percent scanned a QR code while at work, while 12.6% percent did so outside or on public transit, and 7.6% percent did so while in a restaurant.

QR code scans

Source: Statista

North America

In the past decade, QR codes have not been widely adopted in the U.S.

However, the North American region slowly adopts QR codes as smartphone usage increases.

Let’s look back at how the region transitioned to QR code technology from 2011 to the present.

The study found that in June 2011, 14 million mobile users in the U.S., representing 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience, scanned a QR code on their mobile devices.

QR code scan locations

Source: BBC News

Moreover, a Comscore study found that a mobile user that scanned a QR code during the month was more likely to be male (60.5 percent of code scanning audience), skew toward ages 18–34 (53.4 percent), and have a household income of $100k or above (36.1 percent).

The study also analyzed the source and location of QR code scanning.

It found that users are most likely to scan codes found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging and do so while at home or in a store.

Total smart product activations grew 63%, and interactions increased 81% from 2018–2020, while the growth in the number of interactions per active object grew by 48%.

This amounted to total smart product reach growing 92% over the same period.

Fast forward to 2020, and 81% of U.S. adults have smartphones. And nearly all of them read QR with no third-party app required.

The Digital 2021 Global Overview Report states that the average American now spends more than 4 hours per day using their mobile phone.

The increase in mobile phone usage correlates with Americans’ adoption of QR codes.

At present, around 11 million households in the US will scan a QR code every year (Statista, 2019).

The data implies that the Covid-19 pandemic and the health measures imposed in various states in the US contributed to the mammoth-like growth of QR code usage.


Way back in 2015, the use of QR codes in Europe was limited, with many users interacting with them at stores.

QR code uses in europe

Source: Statista

The study found that only 5% of total interactions are made when out shopping (Statista, 2015).

And those who were only occasionally using QR codes were only found to be about 9% of the German population

Germany QR code usage

Source: Statista

Moreover, Millennials had a higher QR code usage as per the Statista 2017 data.


QR code usage in asia

Source: Statista

Although Asian countries, particularly China, were the first to embrace QR code technology even before the pandemic, it is still important to see how QR code usage soars today.

A 2014 study by Statista reports that almost 20% of Asian consumers use mobile phones to scan a QR code in-store.

This data suggests that even before the pandemic, Asians are familiar with QR codes already, as it is even used in in-store smartphone shopping.

This is a good illustration of how Asian consumers use QR codes for shopping. QR code usage soars faster in Asia when China launches it as a means to pay.

China is deemed to be the global early mover in the mobile payment market and is the biggest in the world.

QR codes for shopping

Source: Zocco, Stefania (University of Venice)

It is accounted that more than 55% of the internet users in the country have made at least one mobile payment.

QR code usage soared in China when WeChat used the QR code as an alternative payment option.

In effect, a total of $1.65 trillion worth of transactions was made via QR code payments in 2016 alone (CNN, 2017).

A few years later, the said data increased, especially during the pandemic.

According to a 2019 survey, 50% of QR code scanners in China regularly scan QR codes a few times a week.

Use cases: QR codes as used in industries

Fast-moving consumer goods industry

According to Deloitte Insights, in 2014, industries rely heavily on inexpensive package-level technologies such as QR codes.

QR code for packaging

Source: Media-exp

In 2018, smart packaging solutions were offered by 11 companies which, include the QR code solution.

In a 2019 study by Packaging Insights,65% of Chinese consumers think scanning QR Codes on product packaging instills a blanket of trust when they purchase a certain product from a brand.

An interesting use case for the FMCG industry is when Heinz included a QR code for their green packaging.

When scanned, customers can learn what their new packaging means for the environment.


The retail industry is no exception to the worldwide adoption of QR codes even before the pandemic.

For instance, Escape Boutique, a ladies' and menswear retailer store in the United Kingdom, creatively uses QR codes for a convenient window shopping experience.

Printed card with QR codes

Source: Escape Boutique

Each displayed item in the shop’s windows has printed QR code cards. When scanned using smartphones, shoppers will be redirected to the store’s website to order.

QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Usage after Covid

QR codes have existed for 26 years, and many businesses and tech pioneers have tried to adopt the technology.

However, its massive adoption took off when the pandemic happened, affecting all countries worldwide.

QR code statistics

During the Covid-19 pandemic, QR code usage has risen as it is predominantly used in “contactless” contact tracing.

According to a study by Statista done in September 2020, less than 15% of respondents haven’t used a QR code, and over 30% have scanned a QR code within the last week.

Thus, the use of QR codes is on the rise worldwide. And it will grow exponentially in 2020.

QR code usgae rise

Source: Statista

Various countries require citizens to check into venues (such as hotels or nightclubs) by scanning QR codes on their phones using a contact tracing app.

The QR code helps to easily track down and contact people who tested positive for Covid. Covid-tracking procedures like easier isolation are now in place with the adoption of QR codes.

For example, people in China can sign up through Ant’s popular wallet app, Alipay, and are assigned a color code.

The assigned color indicates their health status for easy tracing. Currently, the system is already in use in 200 cities and is being rolled out nationwide, Ant says.

Other countries, like Argentina, have seen an explosive interaction rate with QR codes. Between 2018 and 2020, there was a 14% increase in the use of QR code payment methods by an adult in Argentina, and another 7% increase is projected for 2022.

QR code payment

Source: Statista

North America

In North America, there has been a significant increase in people who have scanned a QR code during the pandemic.

Payment Journal (2020) found that an additional 11%, or a total of 24%, used QR codes when the pandemic happened.

This is a large growth from 13% of Americans who used the QR codes on their smartphones before the pandemic.

Different QR code uses

Source: Statista

As illustrated from the above graph, we can conclude that Americans frequently see QR codes in restaurants, bars, and cafes. Then followed by retailers and consumer products.

These data are supported by another study that half of the restaurants in the US use QR codes (National Restaurant Association, 2020). This is why restaurants or bars are the key locations where most Americans scanned a QR code.

Another 2020 MobileIron poll survey found that 83% of respondents have scanned a QR code at least once, and 72% of people have scanned a QR code within the past month. And these numbers are currently rising. 36% have used QR codes as a payment method, with 53% saying they would use QR codes as a payment method in the future.

The upward movement of this figure is attributed to the increased usage of QR codes as a tech tool for Covid-19 tracking.

All this underscores that Americans will experience exponential growth in QR code usage. As Juniper Research reports, the United States will have solid growth in user numbers in the next five years from 2020.

The main driver for this is that QR code payments begin to tap into the requirement for cashless transactions for a safer customer experience. One case we can cite is when CVS, a known US retailer, starts to offer touch-free payments through a partnership with PayPal and Venmo at 8,200 stores (BBC, 2021)


A 2015 study estimates that the total population in Europe that is now considered regular QR code users has doubled by 2018.

When the pandemic hits, a survey estimates that 18.8 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom strongly agreed that they had noticed an increase in QR codes when COVID-19 hits (Statista, 2020)

As a point of comparison, Europe used QR codes more than Latin America in 2020 (Statista, 2021).

Shopping QR code

Source: Statista

In other parts of Europe, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK, 17.8 percent of mobile users scanned a QR or a bar code, particularly a retail store (Statista).

In Italy, QR codes are used in cultural sites and museums for interactive content and to promote contactless learning.

Over 30% of galleries in Italy use QR codes, and 40% are interested in providing QR codes in the future (Statista, 2020)

In sum, in 2021, the total QR code usage in Europe will be 10.1 million.


Furthermore, many Asian countries have embraced technology; in China alone, they can facilitate everything from charging mobile phones to flirting in bars.

According to Fortune, major cities such as Bangkok and Hong Kong tapped QR code technology to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. You can find codes posted at the entrance to grocery stores and public transit centers to help contact-tracing efforts in case of outbreaks.

In early 2020, the use of QR codes spread, and its use grew, with more than 30% of new adopters using QR codes by the end of the 3rd quarter, in China.

QR code technology adaptation

Source: Statista

Moreover, in other parts of Asia, QR codes are becoming so widespread and used.

For instance, it is the main preferred payment method (45%) in Macau, stimulated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digital payment QR code

Source: QR TIGER

On one hand, in Hong Kong QR code is the second preferred payment method (20%). While in Taiwan, QR code is the third preferred payment method comprising 21%.

Likewise, India has also seen an increase in their mobile actions to over 40% use for scanning QR codes.

QR code scans in india

Source: Statista

According to a survey conducted in 2020, about 35 percent of Japanese are using QR codes as payment methods.

Payment QR code awareness

Source: Statista

Moreover, the survey states that approximately 43 percent of respondents in Japan said that they used QR code payment services.

In Japan, there are various QR code service providers, and until recently, each provider used a different QR code.

To reduce confusion and increase the usage of the payment method, the government started the promotion of a unified QR code and bar code called “JPQR“.

From 2019 onwards, several providers started to launch their QR code payment services through the unified JPQR (Statista, 2021).

Having this unified QR code impacts the growth of QR code usage in the country.

As a result, money transfers made via QR code and barcode payment services in Japan amounted to around 47.4 billion Japanese yen in 2019. (Statista, 2018–2019)

The value of mobile money transfers increased by more than 39 billion Japanese yen compared to the previous year, indicating an increased usage of mobile payment services for money transfers.

Let’s take a look as well how Singapore made use of QR codes after the pandemic.

Singaporeans are slowly embracing QR code-based payments. As of 2019, about 48 percent of Singaporeans aged between 25–34 years stated that they use QR codes as an e-payment method (Statista, 2021).

Epayment QR code

Source: Statista

The adoption of QR codes as the payment method in Singapore continues to soar during the pandemic.

To illustrate, Asean Business (2021) notes that QR payment transactions jumped 272 percent compared with the same period last 2020.

Digital payment wallets like DBC states that QR code as an alternative payment option will “allow small businesses and even hawker stalls to adopt cashless payments without the need to lease payment terminals or pay for wiring.” (DBC, 2020)

As reported by the study of the National University of Singapore, the value and number of PayLah transactions jumped after DBS Bank added a QR code as a payment option.

QR code Covid-19 statistics report: QR code search trend overview

In terms of search trends related to QR codes, we can see that the related terms and the search rate have increased over time until the pandemic period.

Let’s take a look at the data generated by Google Trends.

QR code

QR code statistics report

Source: Google Trends

Examining the above trend, there is a constant interest of searchers in QR codes before Covid.

However, during the last quarter of 2019 until 2020 onwards, the search volume climbed up.

What this shows is that the QR code is now visible to many people during the pandemic.

Also, many people are becoming curious about how QR codes can be used and applied as a contactless method in transactions, restaurant operations, and so on.

Menu QR code

QR code menu usage

Source: Google Trends

The term menu QR codes gain momentum during the last quarter of 2019 up to the year 2020.

This trend illustrates that many hospitality businesses that reopen and are operating during the pandemic are using menu QR codes.

DIgital menu QR code

In the US, all restaurants and hospitality outlets are required to use a single-use menu or menu QR code.

The mandate aims to ensure a safer dining environment, according to the guidelines issued by the National Restaurant Association.

Health QR code

Health QR code

Source: Google Trends

The graph above shows that there was a drastic increase in the search volume of the term “health QR code” in the last quarter of 2019 until 2020.

The significance of this data is that it shows the rising interest of people in QR codes during the pandemic and how it is used to combat the difficulty of contact tracing.

Contact tracing QR code

Source: The Conversation

As part of the government efforts in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries are using health QR codes as a means to trace people if they test positive for Covid quickly.

The online health checklist is accessible via QR code which speeds up the current manual processes and makes it quicker to stop the spread of the virus.

For instance, New Zealand streamlined its contract tracing efforts by distributing official NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters to businesses and service industries.

The move is driven by the accessibility and speed of QR code-enabled contact tracing procedures.


QR code interest

Source: Google Trends

The search volume of Covid QR codes is on the rise from 2019 to 2020.

So, what does this mean? This data correlates to the search volume of the term health QR code.

As more people are exposed to coronavirus, faster contact tracing becomes the primary concern. In effect, government and private institutions are looking for ways for faster contact tracking procedures.

Thus, we can infer that by looking at search results for “QR Code,” “Menu QR Code,” “Health QR Code,” and “COVID QR Code,” there has been a visible and significant increase since the beginning of 2020.

QR code Covid-19 statistics report: Projections for QR code usage from 2021 to 2025

A Statista study projects that there will be a 22% increase in the use of QR codes by 2025 from 2020 across different regions.

QR code transcation

Source: Statista

In particular, a Juniper Research study found that the number of QR code coupons redeemed via mobile will reach 5.3 billion by 2022. This figure jumped from an estimated 1.3 billion in 2017.

As gleaned from the above data, projections for the use of QR codes post-COVID only increase.

The said projection is attributed to the safety regulations imposed by the government in contract tracing and the continuous QR code usage of various industries

Main Use Cases: QR code after Covid-19

When Covid-19 hit in 2020, the QR code became an essential tool that helps out businesses in ensuring touchless transactions.

Forbes states that QR code is predominantly deployed in restaurants to replace traditional menus.

It is visible as well on doors for Covid-19 updates and even on mailing and landing pages.

Thus, the QR code has made a mighty comeback worldwide. 


The education sector is primarily the one that benefits the most from the QR code.

When Covid-19 hits, the education sector has to transition from the usual face-to-face classroom setup into online classes.

Some even used QR codes in terms of contact tracing and attendance checking among countries that already hold face-to-face classes.

QR code for education

Source: Global Times

This technology-based learning paradigm has become the norm until now.

For instance, Boise State University will launch a web application for improved contact tracing and attendance tracking in the said university.

The students and instructors alike will use their smartphones to scan QR codes at assigned seats and locations in the classroom.

According to the Boise State University admin, “The resulting data is cleaner and more accurate as opposed to asking students to fill out a survey, and makes it easier for our Public Health Office to facilitate contact tracing for potential interactions with individuals identified as positive for Covid-19.”

Governments’ contact tracing efforts

As various states and governments mount large-scale contact tracing efforts to curb the rising number of Covid cases, QR code is now the primary means to expedite this tedious contact tracing process.

A study by Oxford University in April found that if even just 56% of a country’s population used a QR code tracking app, it could severely suppress the Covid-19 epidemic.

QR code for gorvernment

Source: QR TIGER

It is important to note that communities have to work collaboratively to stop the transmission of Covid-19. With the positive response of European countries in installing contact tracing apps for coronavirus, it is more likely that QR code usage will grow.

As reported in the initial surveys by behavioral economists and the team of Oxford University, there are 6000 potential app users in 5 European countries.

This data suggests that 73.6% of users would be likely to install a contact tracing app for coronavirus in the UK and between 67.5% — 85.5% in France, Germany, Italy, and the USA.


As customer safety is the primary concern of every restaurant, the use of QR codes is expected to stay and grow post-pandemic.

An industry report conducted by the National Restaurant Association noted that half of the full-service operators have added digital menus accessed by scanning a QR code.

QR code menu

In one interview with a restaurant owner, they have seen an increase in QR codes for their menu system.

ThinkFoodGroup, which owns several restaurants, said that 110,000 guests have used the QR code menus since they launched the system.

Each customer spends an average of 11 minutes using the menu QR code.

It becomes easy and convenient to peruse the menu and order.

Thus, experts say that this technology will help the restaurant industry move forward outside of the pandemic.

Other sectors: Entertainment, Hospitality, and Health

Restaurants aren’t the only sector that largely uses QR codes in day-to-day operations.

According to a recent survey by Adweek partnered with Morning Consult, people would likely use the QR code technology in hotels (51%), movie theaters (49%), medical offices (48%), museums (47%), and concert venues.

Entertainment and hospitality are using QR codes to offer a multi-media experience and delightful stay experience for visitors and guests.

The above figures indicate that hotels are investing more in technology to bounce back from the financial losses brought about by the pandemic.

Even theatres, museums, and concert venues, which all comprised the entertainment industry has to move forward with tech innovations.

Medical offices have to cater to the safety concerns as well to the patients as these are key locations where Covid-19 transmission is more likely to occur.

Hence, it is expected that post-pandemic, QR codes will still play a big role in various sectors as consumer preferences are changing.

The surge of QR code usage: Factors driving its growth

The popularity of QR codes grows rapidly with the growth of smartphone users and internet usage. When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, QR code usage even more skyrocketed.

According to a Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, 66.6 percent of the world’s total population, or 5.22 billion people, use a mobile phone today.

Furthermore, the Digital 2021 Global Overview Report found that there is a significant increase of 7.3 percent of people who use the Internet since 2020.

At present, global internet penetration now stands at 59.5 percent.

Because of these factors, the QR code is widely adopted by many countries.

This is supported by a recent whitepaper published by Juniper Research which predicts that 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes by 2022.

QR codes will continue to rise in the coming years

Given the magnitude of COVID-19 cases and plans to eventually relax mitigation efforts, QR code is becoming a new tech tool for contact tracing efforts.

But it’s not just about the usage of QR codes in preventing the spread of the virus, it is now a vital groundbreaking tech tool globally.

As predicted by experts, QR codes could help businesses move forward even after the pandemic.

Thus, the QR codes Covid-19 statistics report predicts that QR code usage worldwide will rise in the coming years.

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