The key difference between how a beacon is used for marketing, as opposed to a QR code, is that beacons enable businesses to proactively engage with a customer, without need for the customer to decide to take action.
Beacons broadcast their location to nearby mobile devices, such as a smartphone or tablet.
Compatible apps installed on the mobile device can launch or open automatically when triggered by a beacon, without the customer having to do anything. Messages can then be displayed on the mobile device to enhance the customer’s experience in a specific location.
A Quick Response (QR) code is a machine-readable code made up of a unique array of black and white squares, typically used for storing URLs.
QR codes require the user to see something they wish to engage with, and then read the QR code via the camera on a mobile device.
Another difference between using beacons and QR codes, is that the same QR code can be used in multiple locations, for example on printed marketing material. So the use of a QR code does not give information back to the business on exactly where the customer is, when they engage with content.