However, only 8% of Europeans with smartphones say they scan monthly, Forrester finds.
While not many Europeans scan QR and 2-D bar codes—only 8% of smartphone owners scan a code as often as once each month—the consumers who do scan are three times more likely to research products for purchase on mobile devices than the average mobile population, according to a new report from Forrester Research Inc.
The report, "How Extended Packaging Will Redefine Relationships Among Brands, Retailers, And Customers," draws on Forrester’s research of companies using bar codes like retailers and manufacturers, bar code scanning vendors and a survey of 13,000 consumers across the U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Sweden.
Of all the countries in the report, Germany has the most consumers with bar code scanning apps, the report says, with 32% of smartphone owners there having a reader app installed. That is followed by the Netherlands (31%) and Spain (30%). Code reader apps are more popular among iPhone (39% installed) and Android (33%) users than other European smartphone users (27%).
The report notes that more brands are adding scannable codes to product packaging in Europe. However, it adds that the growing adoption will create new questions and complexity. For example, Forrester says brands and retailers will need to work out which entity is legally responsible—the manufacturer that put the code on the box or the retailer selling the item—for the information delivered to a consumer when she scans the code.
It also adds that brands need to improve on execution. Bar code campaigns that don’t perform often fall into one of two categories, Forrester says: they don’t offer a benefit to consumers or they don’t link to mobile-optimized content.
However, Forrester says that if used correctly, 2-D bar codes can address the needs of the increasingly savvy and picky consumer, and not just by delivering more product information. For example, a bar code on a package might lead customers to a mobile-optimized video about how a company considers the environment in its manufacturing processes or the charities it donates to.
Forrester says several global food and nutrition brands in Europe are adding bar codes to packaging this year. For example, fast food chain McDonald’s, which tested QR codes during the London Olympics last year, plans to add codes to more packaging in June, while candy and snack food maker Nestle recently began adding QR codes to its Kit Kat candy bars in the U.K. Consumers biting into a Kat Kat bar, for example, can scan a code to “learn more about the nutritional, environmental and social aspects” of the candy bar and Nestle. The scan takes consumers to mobile-optimized information, including dietary and serving advice, healthy lifestyle tips, and environmental information about the company. Consumer packaged goods manufacturer Heinz, meanwhile, adds codes to ketchup bottles in Europe that promise that the company will plant a tree for every code scanned.