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Gen Z and Millennials Are Using QR Codes for More Than You Think

QR codes are the easiest way to deliver young consumers a link, and they’re ready to scan to shop—and much more…


  • QR codes got popular during the pandemic, but younger gens are still using them now, and are open to using them for a variety of purposes
  • Gen Z and Millennials have used QR codes for restaurants and discounts the most
  • QR codes give brands the opportunity to reach young consumers with the content and information they’re already seeking 

The pandemic forced many businesses to find creative ways to deliver their services digitally—and it turns out they may never go back to the way things were done before. Gen Z and Millennials were already living through their smartphones pre-COVID, but their device usage soared during the pandemic. Now, even as life returns to normal, they’re not putting their phones down. Instead, many young consumers are content to have parts of their experiences digitized, even in person. Enter the QR code, the most efficient way to deliver a link IRL.

If you don’t know, these square codes take users to a desired link, and are scannable with any smartphone camera. Ever since the scanning function became built-in, QR codes have become infinitely easier to implement. One of the biggest benefits of QR codes is data tracking; when a user follows the link, information is stored about how many times, when, and where it was used, and can also track a variety of  personal information. Because of these functions, brands can use QR codes to improve targeted advertising. 

QR codes have only recently become popular in North America, but they’ve been the norm in other parts of the world for a while. In China, just about everything is done through QR codes, from shopping and payment, to experiences online and off. This may soon be true here, too, as tech-driven younger gens integrate them into their experiences. Now, plenty of brands have already found creative ways to implement QR codes—from menus and check outs, to NFT campaigns, AR experiences, and usernames (Snapcodes got in early, but they’re front and center on Venmo). In fact, 77% of 13-39-year-olds tell YPulse they’ve already used a QR code, according to our Shopping and Retail report. And when we ask what they’ve used a QR code for, their responses show the scope of what these codes can accomplish for brands:

Young consumers are using QR codes for menus and discounts the most

QR codes became ubiquitous at restaurants during the pandemic when no one wanted to touch a physical menu. Now, Gen Z and Millennials are using QR codes most frequently to retrieve these menus. But more than solving a sanitary issue, QR menus offer brands/restaurants the chance to engage young consumers on a deeper level. Kim Teo, co-founder of Mr. Yum, a QR code tech startup for restaurants, says digital menus “make it easier to persuade people to spend more with offers,” as well as allow restaurants to track which items are best-sellers. YPulse’s most recent Experiences report found that 65% of young people now say they’re comfortable going out to eat at a restaurant, so they’re ready to scan and spend on a good meal. 

Beyond menus, young consumers have also used QR codes to get coupons / discounts and to download an app or game, meaning they’re ready to integrate these codes into their shopping habits and entertainment preferences. Gen Z males are the most likely to have used a QR code to download a game (39%), which isn’t too surprising—they’re the most likely to be playing games and to be interested in gaming content. For brands in this space, QR codes represent an effective way to reach this demographic and easily entice them to try a new game.  

They’re interested in using QR codes for a lot more 

Having gotten used to seeing them for a safer shopping experience throughout the pandemic, young consumers are now interested in scanning them for other benefits. Overall, 85% tell YPulse they are interested in scanning a QR code to access discounts / product information. But, beyond that, there are a variety of other uses they’re interested in seeing:

We know that price is a top factor when shopping for the younger gens, so they’re most interested in scanning QR codes that are going to give them a discount. But QR codes present a major opportunity for brands to reach Gen Z and Millennials in new ways. Nearly a third say they’d scan to learn more about a brand or product, and a quarter want to use these codes to pay for products. But many also want QR codes to deliver content that adds value to their experiences and shopping habits. 25% would scan a QR code to learn how to use or style a product, and 13% would do so to learn about a brand’s CSR initiatives. YPulse’s Self-Taught trend research found that 85% of young consumers have done research about a brand before making a purchase from them, which includes checking out their environmental and social impact as well as how to use their products. In fact, when we ask young consumers what they trust a brand to teach them, their top answers include how-to content and information about their own products and services. With young consumers interested in this information from brands, QR codes offer an easy way to give Gen Z and Millennials access to the content they’re craving.

YPulse paid users can access the full Shopping and Retail report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse paid account? Find out more here.