Over the last 13 years, I’ve lived in Turkey and the US. And I haven’t actively used QR codes in either of these geographies.
As a result, I was always intrigued when I heard that QR codes are widely used in China. Now I have at least a partial answer for why this is the case.
In this Andreessen Horowitz video presentation on consumer tech trends in China, Connie Chan shares that there are about 1.7 credit cards per person in the US. This is in contrast to around 0.3 credit cards per person in China. The same figure for Turkey is around 1.9.
Payments is one of the primary use cases for QR codes in China. Since credit card penetration in the country is low, and since consumers want an alternative to cash, QR codes linked to the digital money on your smartphone help fill the gap. Since credit card penetration rates are much higher in Turkey and the US, there isn’t as big of a need for an alternative.
For QR codes to take off in countries with high credit card penetration rates, they’re likely going to need to address a high frequency use case outside of payments.
Also published on Medium.