Over the past decade, Quick Response (QR) codes have become an integral part of the technological landscape in Canada.
These two-dimensional barcodes, initially developed in Japan in the 1990s, have evolved from a marketing gimmick to an indispensable tool, seamlessly integrating into various aspects of Canadian society.
Did you know:
- 27.4 million Canadians are online—that’s 80% of their population
- 93% go online to view and verify product information
QR Codes in Canada have become increasingly popular in recent years, with an estimated 8.2 million Canadians now using them.
To capture the attention of the smartphone generation is not easy for marketers. These figures have changed the way Canadian marketers and retailers engage their audiences.
Canada witnessed an outstanding 4x increase, escalating from 5,500 QR Codes generated in 2021 to an impressive 20,000 QR Codes by mid-2023.
To strike a chord with millennials, marketers, retailers, and even the police have adopted QR Codes.
QR Codes are 2D Barcodes that can link to information such as, websites, images, and videos.
Canadians are starting to see them on more than just their vaccination passports. They’re replacing menus in restaurants and increasingly appearing in advertising. The simplest explanation is that there’s now an actual reason to use them.
A. Benefits of using QR Codes in Canada
Using QR Codes in Canada can offer several benefits across various sectors. Here are some potential advantages:
1. Contactless Payments: QR Codes in Canada facilitate contactless payments, allowing consumers to make transactions without physical contact with cash or cards. This has become increasingly important, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Convenience in Transactions: QR Codes in Canada make transactions quick and easy. Canadians can now simply scan a code with their smartphones to access information, make payments, or complete other transactions, reducing the need for manual data entry.
3. Marketing and Advertising: QR Codes in Canada are often used in marketing campaigns and advertisements to provide a quick link to websites, promotions, or additional information.
This has helped Canadians to easily access relevant content by scanning the code with their mobile devices.
4. Ticketing and Boarding Passes: QR Codes in Canada are commonly used for electronic tickets and boarding passes for events, flights, concerts, and public transportation across Canada. This has streamlined the ticketing process, reduced paper usage, and enhanced efficiency.
5. Authentication and Security: QR Codes are now employed for two-factor authentication or as a secure way to access sensitive information in many sectors. This adds an extra layer of security to online accounts and transactions.
6. Inventory Management: In retail and manufacturing, QR Codes are utilized for efficient inventory management. Each product can be assigned a unique QR Code, making it easier to track, manage, and update inventory levels.
7. COVID-19 Tracking and Tracing: During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR Codes have been used for contact tracing in Canada. Individuals can scan codes when entering public spaces, allowing health authorities to track potential exposure and manage the spread of the virus.
8. Educational Purposes: QR Codes are used in educational materials across Canada to provide quick access to additional resources, videos, or interactive content. Teachers and students benefit from this technology to enhance the learning experience.
9. Government Services: Various government services in Canada use QR Codes for document verification, authentication, or accessing online services, contributing to the digitization of public services.
B. Industry-wise use cases of QR Codes in Canada
Here are some ways which different industries use QR Codes in Canada:
Use cases of QR Codes in the Canadian marketing segment are diverse. From product packaging, customer surveys, to raising awareness for causes, QR Codes are an active part of marketing.
I. Product packaging
Statistics show that the usage of QR Codes in Canada is soaring. To ride this wave, the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board introduced QR Codes on fruit packaging. Scanning this QR Code allowed buyers to view more information about the fruit.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to access information about tender fruit, whether that’s at the grocery store or on their smart phone device while they’re on the go.With the many different recipes as well as information on where fruit is available, it’s never been this easy to buy and enjoy local”Sarah Marshall, Manager, Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board
Kraft Peanut Butter introduced an AI-powered platform in November 2023 to make the last bits of peanut butter at the bottom of the jar scannable.
Through Skip Express Lane, a first-of-its-kind delivery service from SkipTheDishes, Canadians can now use their mobile device to scan the pattern at the bottom of nearly empty jars and receive a free jar of Kraft Peanut Butter the same day.
To complete their transaction, Canadians can visit their page and use their mobile device’s camera to scan the pattern located at the bottom of any peanut butter jar. How cool right?!
The Little Potato Company offered a chance to win $1,000 worth of groceries from a selection of stores last holiday season, in an effort to alleviate the effects of rising food inflation that are affecting families worldwide.
The campaign concluded on 10th January 2024, where 15 American and 15 Canadian consumers were the winners. Customers scanned the QR Code on the Little Holiday Happiness point-of-sale materials in stores to enter the competition.
Back In 2011, Western Canadian brewery, Kokanee, added QR Codes to the packaging of their limited edition beer, Mountain Can Series.
The QR Code linked to interactive maps of some of Canada’s well traveled mountains.
“Using QR codes is a fresh new approach for Kokanee in our product packaging and provides a richer brand experience.”Mike Bascom, Marketing Manager, Kokanee
The Canadian PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group partnered with radio station Shazam to launch an awareness campaign. As part of the campaign, the mouths of the people on posters are covered with a QR Code. Scanning the QR Code redirects the scanner to a video of the person on the poster sharing their story.
A recent survey finds:
- Eighty percent of Canadian consumers desire to choose products that are more ecologically friendly and sustainable.
- Sixty-nine percent of Canadian customers demand information from businesses regarding a product’s environmental impact.
- More than 80% of Canadians are worried about environmental degradation caused by humans, air pollution, water quality, and the preservation of nature1.
In March 2023, L’Oréal Canada announced the introduction of L’Oréal’s Product Impact Labeling system in Canada. The program gives customers transparent, science-based information about how a product affects society and the environment in comparison to other L’Oréal goods in the same category.
Customers now can choose sustainably, something that 80% of Canadians have stated they would like to do.
The Canadian Red Cross has Integrated QR Codes into fundraising campaigns and donation opportunities making a huge impact on several different charities.
Back In 2010, Big Wild, a wildlife, and environment conservation society, posted QR Code posters across seven cities in Canada. The campaign aimed at saving the Flathead River Valley and Restigouche watershed. On scanning the QR Code in Canada, people could sign an online petition to protect the flora & fauna of these locations.
“We’re always looking for new strategies and approaches to get people’s attention. We wanted to try out a campaign with these QR codes and add an element of mystery. The idea was that we would entice and intrigue people. The people who might scan the codes are technologically minded, so they would know about the code and know what to do with it.”Darren Barefoot, Program Manager, Big Wild
III. Customer surveys
Many big brands like Starbucks, Mcdonald’s, and H&M have integrated QR Codes into their apps and their products across Canada to attract customer feedback and encourage customers to fill out surveys in order to get additional discounts.
Rose City Goods, a Canadian lifestyle business, is well-known for its amazing window displays. The brand has also incorporated QR Codes in Canada for mobile shopping to offer a physical component.
If a passerby sees anything in the display that catches their eye, they can order it and get further information by scanning the QR Code in Canada without ever entering the store. They can even post reviews and feedback surveys using these QRs.
In 2014, St-Hubert, a Canadian casual dining chain handed out flyers with QR Code to their customers. On scanning the QR Code, customers were led to a feedback form. Sharing feedback gave customers a chance to win a CAD 250 gift card.
The National Arts Centre of Canada uses QR Codes in Canada for interactive exhibits, artist bios, and educational resources.
This has created an easy way to propagate information to a large audience base without needing huge additional resources or costs.
Royal Ontario Museum, Canada launched a mobile app called ScopifyROM. Using this application, visitors could scan QR Codes placed next to the exhibits. Scanning the QR Code offered visitors an in-depth description plus interaction with the artifact.
The app allows the visitor to assume the role of a museum curator thus, enhancing their experience.
“What we wanted to do here is emphasize discovery. What visitors are doing is looking at objects in a new way. We are adding a new dimension to let them scopify or see something else about the object and then they almost draw their own conclusions. We help them by providing the tools but then they do it and they make the discovery and that is what is revolutionary—not the technology it’s the application of it.”Dan Rahimi, Vice President of Gallery Development, Royal Ontario Museum
Also Read: How museums can enhance visitor experience
3. Government and public services
The Government of Canada provides COVID-19 vaccine verification and travel information through QR Codes. Not only that, the Trudeau administration has upgraded the public transit system with QRs. Toronto Transit Commission now offers contactless fare payment and real-time arrival information via QR Codes.
The city of Vancouver uses QR Codes in Canada for public feedback on initiatives, park amenity information, and reporting city issues as well.
In a press conference held in 2011, the Quebec police released a QR Code in a bid to find the killer of a young woman. The QR Code linked to the image of a key witness in the case.
The police believed that QR Codes technology would appeal to a majority of teenagers and they could get a breakthrough in the case.
The police also added that sharing an image via a QR Code would be more effective than flashing it on TV. Sometimes, people might need a second look for positive identification.
“It’s out there. We’re going to consider doing other cases.”SGT. Jean-Paul Le May, Gatineau Police
In 2017, Climate’s Sake, a registered charity based in Toronto, Canada added QR Codes to trees at the Humber Arboretum park. Each specie of tree comes with a unique QR Code. Scanning the QR Code will link visitors to a page listing details of that particular species. The initiative is part of the Treecaching trail that encourages technology loving youngsters to spend time with nature.
“I’d love to see grandparents bringing their grandchildren, children bringing their grandparents. Kids are leaving their friends for (computer) monitors. Not playing street hockey. I want to bring that back.” – Alice Casselman, Founder, Climate’s Sake.
Opened in 2016 in Mississippi Mills, Ontario, The Metcalfe Geoheritage Park has on permanent display, a variety of local stones. Some of these stones date back to 500-450 million years. The park also has a QR Code on display that helps visitors learn more about these rocks. The QR Codes in the park were designed by The Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO).
“This (QR Codes) will enable visitors with mobile devices to connect digitally with a wealth of geo-information about the site and the specimens.”APGO chair, Dr. Bill Pearson
5. On headstones
Starting 2012, QR Codes on headstones became a common site in Canada. The first funeral house in Canada to adopt this service was Remco Memorials Ltd. The QR Code encodes personal details about the deceased. Anybody visiting the grave can scan the QR Code in Canada to view the memories of the now deceased in form of images, stories, and videos.
“I think it will take a number of years before it becomes mainstream but it is certainly starting to gain momentum.” – Adam Reeson, Marketing Specialist, Remco Memorials Ltd
6. Tourism and Hospitality
Canadian Tourism Commission provides interactive information and trip planning resources through QR Codes at key tourist destinations.
And not just that the world-famous CN Tower in Toronto, Canada has enhanced the visitor experience with QR Codes. These QRs when scanned, trigger multimedia presentations and historical facts about the location and tourist attraction.
The Fairmont Hotel and Resort, Canada have started using QR Codes for promotional purposes. Canadians and tourists can unlock a world of benefits with the ALL-Accor Live Limitless membership program.
All they need to do is Scan the QR Code and create an account for membership. Once they receive an email confirmation, they can share it to Lumière using which they can pick an appetizer of their choice with the purchase of an entrée
Another instance of efficiently integrating QR Codes into marketing initiatives is the collaboration between Time & Space and the tourism department of New Brunswick.
Users were encouraged to scan the codes and were taken to a specific landing page, where they could enter a contest to win a trip to New Brunswick and further interact and engage with the website, thereby learning more about New Brunswick and its offerings.
These QR Codes were placed on direct mail flyers as well as CTV ads. The direct mail item, which achieved an engagement rate of 1.77%, was a campaign standout, demonstrating the outstanding success of the technique. These two effective QR Code marketing initiatives showed off the tool’s ability to generate measurable outcomes and deepen relationships with customers.
The Westin Bayshore Hotel, Vancouver, Canada, uses QR Code cookies to welcome guests. On scanning the QR Code, guests are directed to a webpage displaying a personalized welcome message.
Based in Ontario, construction firm Allan Avis Architects adds QR Codes to their design blue prints. The QR Code allows scanners to understand the design in detail. It also helps other workers stay up-to-date on any changes in the design.
8. Cashless car-wash
Valet Car Wash in Cambridge, Canada had adopted cashless payment method via QR Codes. Customers can scan the QR Code placed at the entrance of the car wash to make a payment.
“We were looking for a payment system to attract the millennial demographic who typically don’t carry cash or credit cards anymore. They carry a cellphone and a debit card.” – Mike Black, Owner, Valet Car Wash
The QR Code technology is versatile. The above case studies show how QR Codes have carved a niche for themselves in Canada.
C. The future of QR Codes in Canada
The widespread adoption of QR Codes in Canada reflects a growing reliance on technology to streamline everyday activities and enhance overall efficiency.
As the integration of these codes continues to evolve, it is clear that they have become an indispensable part of Canadian society.
Whether facilitating contactless payments, supporting public health efforts, or revolutionizing marketing strategies, QR Codes have proven to be a versatile and valuable tool in the Canadian technological landscape.
As technology continues to advance, it will be fascinating to see how QR Codes further shape the way Canadians interact with the world around them.