How QR Codes and Your Mobile App Can Enhance the In-Store Shopping Experience

By 2025, eMarketer predicts that 10.4% of all U.S. retail sales will be made via mobile devices. This leaves a lot of room for brick-and-mortar businesses to innovate and keep their share. 

Shopping once required a trip to the store. Habits included saving coupons from the mail, planning trips and wish lists, and browsing the racks or aisles hoping to score a deal. When COVID hit, in-store shopping took a back seat. Luckily, most brick-and-mortar brands had already invested in building out their digital presence. Industry leaders were able to adapt to consumer needs and government mandates by deploying experiences that blended physical and digital. Mobile-enabled curbside, BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store), and contactless payments via QR codes all accelerated. This yielded a change in consumer expectations and in-store behaviors positioning apps as an even more integral part of retail activities that had once been purely physical. 

QR code ad placed on a curb side Pictured: Lowes leveraging QR codes to facilitate curbside pickup through their mobile app.

Post-COVID, Raydiant’s State of Consumer Behavior Report explored these changes. According to the report, 48% of respondents would prefer to shop in person at a physical store. 

Consumers expect to use their favorite apps at every stage of their customer journey. This is why it is imperative for brands to deliver a consistent experience across touchpoints for a holistic customer-brand relationship. The in-store shopping experience is now ripe for mobile engagement, and the best apps have implemented ways to become helpful shopping assistants to in-store customers. 

How can customers leverage your app in-store?

Tying your app to the in-store experience is a way to be both omnipresent and more personal. There are several popular use cases for using a mobile device on-site. These include digital loyalty cards, digital coupons, curbside pickup, and accessing additional product reviews or information. In an Airship survey from September 2021, 53% of U.S. consumers said they were likely to use their smartphones to scan QR codes or smart shelf tags for more information. 

To employ all these use cases, brands need a way to connect their physical store to their app. They also need to attribute in-app activities back to the real-world actions that drove them. Facilitating these engaging experiences that bridge the gap between the offline world and the app is highly valuable for in-store customers. It’s equally important to recognize brick-and-mortar stores as a high-potential acquisition channel. For example, many QR codes are a great solution for moving users offline and into your apps. This has really taken off since the onset of the pandemic. 

The downside is most QR codes are not optimized for driving and measuring in-app engagement. 

How Branch’s app-enabled QR code solutions can help

Accelerating customer app adoption presents significant engagement and monetization value. It also unlocks enhanced future customer experience for better retention and lifetime value (LTV). Brick-and-mortar brands can drive in-store app adoption with Branch-powered QR codes. With these codes, brands can customize links to measure campaign effectiveness, track store rewards, and streamline onboarding by deep linking through install. QR codes created through Branch are fully enabled for use with mobile apps, helping brands drive app usage from their brick-and-mortar stores. This then leads to app installs and higher customer LTV. 

How brick and mortar stores can use offline channels to acquire customers

However, it’s important to know that the QR code experience depends on the scale and reliability of the platform supplying the link. This is why teams serious about deploying a successful app-enabled QR code strategy should strongly consider partnering with Branch. You can speed up your workflow and alleviate development requirements by leveraging Branch’s QR Code API. This software interface was built for the dynamic creation of custom and unique QR code designs at scale. NativeLink™ routes users to specific content from QR codes (even through install) without relying on IP address matches for privacy-friendly experiences. Plus, every Branch QR code has a Branch link behind it. This means it comes with powerful attribution that will measure every click, install, and conversion event, allowing your team to compare post-scan conversions of different QR codes. They will also be able to compare QR code campaigns against other organic channels. 

Benefits of Branch’s QR code solution
  • Quickly create and launch customizable QR codes that link to specific content, such as products or in-app promotions (including through app install).
  • Compare the performance of in-store QR campaigns across marketing channels and other stores.
  • Convert larger offline user population into higher LTV customers.
  • Increase loyalty rewards usage by placing QR codes at moments of high user intent, then apply rewards automatically in the app. 
  • Quickly swap landing pages when changes happen without needing to re-print the QR codes.
  • Create unlimited customized QR codes for every case or product through our flexible API.
  • Prevent QR code breakage regardless of how much traffic you get during a major holiday like Black Friday. 
QR code use cases for retailers
New Look

New Look (together with Branch) created and placed 400+ unique QR codes in its physical stores at POS in an effort to drive app installs. This campaign drove over 16k+ installs in the first month. Each store got a unique QR code which allowed the New Look team to incentivize store managers. Stores that drove the highest installs were awarded prizes. 

QR code sign to download a mobile app


Belk created in-store signs that have been consistently driving 12.5% of its total app installs. With unique product QR codes, shoppers could scan to find more sizes or colors only available in the app. With store-specific QR codes, Belk could pipe the data into its internal platform for store managers and associates to view performance in real time. Belk also included QR codes on customer receipts with a CTA to download the app. This helped maximize opportunities for app acquisition. 

In-store QR code scan sign QR code sign to download mobile app by Belk QR code on customer copy bill

Philips – NutriU

For its NutriU app, Philips deployed in-store stickers that included QR codes backed by Branch deep links. This allowed Philips to measure the effectiveness of the campaign and see where downloads came from. This growth campaign contributed to over 1M downloads and 120% app growth for NutriU compared to the previous year. 

In-store printed flyers with QR code


Looking for more?

Branch QR codes are designed to work with native mobile apps. They plug into your existing growth stack to maximize potential for mobile in-store use cases: 

  • Deploy Branch QR codes in-store to acquire app users. Then pipe the data to Amplitude to analyze the in-app behavior of user cohorts for those acquired in-store. 
  • Promote app engagement during future visits by leveraging Radar’s location layer. This enables the automatic launch of on-premise features like in-store navigation or scan-to-pay. 
  • Trigger emails or push notifications in-store via Braze or Movable Ink’s customer engagement platform. Then, use Branch to deep link from those triggered messages right to specific offers or content in the app for higher conversions. 
  • Pipe this data into your CDP, such as Twilio/Segment, to create enriched profiles. This will help you understand the holistic experience users receive while engaging with your brand both off and online. 

Having these technologies in your toolkit makes each of these use cases both feasible and measurable.  

Are you a retailer ready to bridge the offline to online gap? Request a demo or reach out to your Customer Success team to learn more about how QR codes can help you meet customers’ rising expectations and increase your customer LTV.

Branch provides the industry’s leading mobile linking and measurement platforms, offering solutions that unify user experience and attribution across devices and channels. Branch has been selected by over 100,000 apps since 2014 including Adobe, BuzzFeed, Yelp, and many more, improving experiences for more than 3 billion monthly users across the globe. Learn more about Branch or contact sales today.

Contact sales