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​QR codes aren't useless after all, study says

Nielsen finds nearly half of the consumers it surveyed like using quick response codes on their phones to buy things in stores.


Nielsen's latest report on mobile payments isn't too surprising, save one tidbit: people like using QR codes.

The study, released Thursday, found that mobile payment users actually prefer methods involving quick response (QR) codes or bar codes. Almost half, 45 percent, of the nearly 4,000 people surveyed by Nielsen said they use the method to check out with their smartphones.

Akin to bar codes, QR codes are blocks of printed code used to store large amounts of digital information. For a time, they were showing up everywhere -- on product packaging, ads, marketing campaigns -- but were seen as unnecessary or gimmicky. In mobile payments, cashiers can simply scan the codes displayed on a customer's smartphone as they would any bar code.

Mobile payments is still a nascent industry, but it's grown rapidly in recent years, with worldwide payments reaching $163.1 billion in 2012. That figure was estimated to jump to $235.4 billion by the end of last year, according to Gartner.

A fair amount of the industry's consumers are loyal, according to Nielsen. Forty percent of those surveyed use mobile apps as their primary way of paying for items.

"Digital is starting to transform how consumers pony up cash for their everyday purchases," reads Nielsen's analysis. "And for consumers using mobile payment technology, digital is already the norm."

Nielsen's findings are based on information collected from 3,784 survey respondents. These were people who are age 18 or older and had used their smartphone or tablet for shopping, banking, or paying within the 30-day period before the survey was conducted. The income of mobile payment users range widely, with the highest usage among those making less than $50,000 (32 percent) and more than $100,000 (29 percent).

Other methods for digital payments used by these mobile consumers were near-field communication (NFC) and using a smartphone's scanner to scan a code. These were less popular, with 37 percent using NFC, such as Google Wallet or Isis, and 29 percent using their phones as a scanner.

The other results of the study weren't too shocking: the majority of people who use mobile payments are young, dinners like to use mobile apps to split the bill, and shoppers like rewards associated with mobile wallets.

Here's how those findings break down:

  • Mobile payment users were 47 percent male and 53 percent female.
  • 55 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • 35 percent were between the ages 35 and 54.
  • About half use mobile payments to split checks when eating out.
  • 71 percent of peer-to-peer payment app users said they use the payments to "reduce tension around splitting the bill."
  • Of the users who said they don't use mobile payments as their primary payment method, 69 percent would become loyal users if merchants also offered rewards with the transactions.