Survey: Older adults less likely to use QR codes

| August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Does your grandma use QR codes? If she’s over the age of 60, there’s more of a chance that she hasn’t. That’s not being snarky or ageist. To paraphrase the late great Richard Dawson, it’s what the survey says.

A new study has found that older adults are only 13 percent as likely to have used QR codes as younger ones. The study, titled “Age Differences in the Knowledge and Usage of QR Codes,” was conducted by Jonathan Mendelson and Jennifer C. Romano Bergstrom, both of whom are researchers with Fors Marsh Group, an Arlington, Virginia-based market research firm. The project was commissioned by a federal agency as part of a study on the effectiveness of its advertising, Mendelson explained in an interview recently. He declined to name the agency, but said the results are available to the public; in fact, he has already presented his findings at conferences.

Babysitter QR

The designers of this QR code clearly know their audience… from Ed and Eddie.

For the study, the researchers queried a group of 4,541 people aged 25 and older who had been recruited through a firm that organizes online probability-based polling panels for consumer research. The subjects were questioned about their awareness, knowledge and usage of QR (Quick Response) codes, the graphic information codes that are read with smart phones.

Age turned out to be the key demographic factor in QR usage, Mendelson said. He and Romano Bergstrom analyzed the responses to their questions using a logistic regression model that controlled for various demographic variables (age, gender, income and education; a subsequent model also controlled for Internet access and smart phone ownership). Their model analyzed the subjects’ responses against all of these demographic variables and predicted their relative likelihood of QR use.

When all the numbers were tabulated, the researchers found that age was the biggest predictor of QR code use, and that adults between the ages of 60 and 94 were 13 percent as likely to use the codes than younger people aged 25 to 39.

teens scanning qr codes at a museum

A study has now proven what marketers have known for awhile: some constituencies are more agile with adopting new technologies than others. From USFWSHQ.

“Even controlling for smartphone usage, older people are still less likely to use QR codes,” Mendelson noted. After controlling for demographics and smartphone ownership, the study showed that older adults were 37 percent as likely as younger adults to have used a QR code.

The surveys were conducted between July 2011 and June 2012 and the results were also analyzed to see whether there had been any change in the subjects’ awareness, knowledge or usage of QR code over that time period. Again, older adults ranked lowest and young adults ranked highest for QR usage, although usage increased slightly among all age groups during that time. Middle-aged adults (between the ages of 40 and 59) showed the highest jump in awareness and knowledge of the codes during the survey period.

QR and age chart

Of those who did use QR codes, younger adults were more likely to use them on billboards, posters, or signs to get videos, apps and contact information, while middle-aged adults were more likely to use them to get coupons or other promotions.

Mendelson hypothesizes that part of the age gap in QR code knowledge and usage might be due to older adults’ tendency to be less comfortable with new technologies and to view smart phones as less useful and more difficult to navigate.

What does this mean for marketers? It means that they should know who they are marketing to and what kinds of items will get a response from their target group, says Mendelson.

“It means if they’re trying to market things with QR codes, they’ll have more luck with younger adults,” he explained. If they’re marketing to older adults, he added, that audience might need more help, in the form of displaying a URL along with the QR code, or labeling the code with the simple directions such as, “Scan here.”

And that’s not condescending; it’s what the survey says.

Category: QR codes