There was substantial variation in the ways stores displayed QR codes. However, trends emerged. Many codes were placed in the front window as a way to entice people into the store. We also found many codes in fitting rooms and at the register.
Front Window Display
A majority of the QR codes found in retail stores appeared in the front display of the store. Most commonly, QR codes were applied in the form of a decal, but, they were also found on freestanding signage. The size and placement of these codes varied to some degree, as did the accompanying text. However, they generally appeared in the lower register of the window and off to either the far left or far right sides.
Stores that displayed codes in this way included Express, Johnston and Murphy, BCBG Max Azria, and Gap.
Frequently the QR codes led to a branded store app download. In the case of the Gap, the code linked to a mobile optimized gift card purchase site. Other links led to social media, a video, or a sweepstakes.
We were surprised to find QR codes in a significant number of fitting rooms. In American Eagle, PacSun, Madewell, and aerie, QR codes appeared on posters in the space outside of the fitting rooms, as well as on the mirror and posters inside the fitting room.
These codes either led to app downloads or to sweepstakes. In both cases, the codes took advantage of the privacy of the fitting room to allow the user time to experience the App before resuming their shopping. In the case of American Eagle, the codes linked to the same location as the codes in the front window. In the case of PacSun, the code inside the fitting room resolved to a unique page linked to app downloads, and the code outside of the fitting room linked to a sweepstakes entry page.
In several stores, materials posted at or near the register also took advantage of a moment in the shopping experience when the shopper pauses and can direct their attention to printed material. At Forever 21 and Journeys, posters featuring QR codes appeared at the checkout counter. At aerie, a code linking to the mobile app appeared on the screen of the credit card scanner while it was idle between transactions.
In some cases, retailers use QR codes to provide additional information about a specific product as opposed to the brand. This is helpful in situations where the product is featured on a display, as seen at Sephora. This also can be applied to product hang tags, although that was not seen during the survey.
In some cases, stores replicated existing print ads with QR codes. Wall signs and advertising boards that included ads with QR codes appeared for Sketchers, T-Mobile, and Rosetta Stone. These advertisements generally mimicked print advertisements used by the companies, and the codes resolved to video or a web page.