Are QR codes the future? Depending on who you ask, they might be an efficient way of accessing a specific piece of information anywhere, quickly and with ease – or you could be met with a simple, “what’s a QR code?” 

Regardless, many believe that QR codes – those boxy little barcode squares that you scan with your smartphone camera – are the wave of the future, especially in an increasingly touchless, post-pandemic world. 

The Gen Pop’s sentiment on the tech, however, seems to be a little less rosy than the experts might think. 

Over one-third (35%) of the population has never used a QR code, while another 30% don’t like using them to access information. Of course, this might be linked to overall hesitance to adopt new technology, as seen in other trends, but even among those who self-identify as keeping up very closely with new tech, 40% either have never used a QR code or don’t like to. 

Unsurprisingly, the pro-QR code trend is largely driven by younger consumers.

But the full scene is a little more complicated than that. 

Time spent on social media sites and apps, by itself, is not a strong indicator of whether a person is a fan of using QR codes.

But the social media sites and apps used does have a stronger correlation. Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram users all are more likely to be a fan of using QR codes, while Facebook users lag behind. 

And beyond that, people who prefer Macs to PCs are much more likely to be QR code fans, significantly more so than those who are concerned about the Delta variant of the coronavirus. 

This data demonstrates that QR code trends are more related to willingness to adopt new digital tech, than a desire for contactless social interactions as a result of the pandemic. 

Regardless, over the last 18 months or more of the pandemic, QR codes have been used in increasing levels at restaurants, bars, and other places where shared menus may pose discomfort to some. And the data shows this is generally the case. 

Of the people who do use QR codes, nearly half (48%) use them to look at restaurant menus. 

And this makes sense. While younger generations are more likely to use QR codes in general, the current most popular usage is in restaurants and is driven by those 35 and up, likely related to a desire for contactless menus and other pandemic-related sanitary measures. 

Gen Zers, meanwhile, are less likely to be driven by pandemic concerns, and more by financial ones: they use QR codes to get coupons or special deals, which presents an interesting opportunity for the future of the tech. 

In any case, regardless of how QR codes are used, among those who are aware of what they are, frequency of use remains relatively low. 

Nearly half of the population (43%) never uses QR codes, and not many at all use them more than a few times a year. 

In addition to that, an overwhelming majority of the Gen Pop simply prefers a quick internet search over using a QR code. This could be a result of Googling, a habit ingrained in many consumers over the last two decades, or it could indicate that, in most situations, consumers don’t feel like QR codes provide a better experience. 

Interestingly, however, consumers who say they consider brand more important than price are much more accepting of QR codes than consumers who are more price-conscious.

So perhaps, the biggest factor in the continued adoption of QR codes is more and more brands finding large-scale ways to use them effectively to do more than just provide information (AOL keywords did this in the 90s and there’s a reason no one talks about them anymore). Maybe even some general education on what QR codes are and how to use them efficiently would be helpful.

CivicScience will continue to keep an eye on the QR trend as it continues to penetrate consumer markets.