Covid ushered new changes that are to stay- and that includes QR codes as a form of payment method.
Contact tracing requirements, coupled with worries about viral contamination through the handling of cash and menus brought on a QR boom that previously eluded Europe.
QR codes have been around for nearly thirty years. Short for ‘quick response’, this collection of black squares and dots pointing to information like a URL was first invented in Japan in 1994 but worldwide adoption rates differed dramatically in the decades
In the UK, QR codes became increasingly popular when the NHS mandated their use for checking into locations during the pandemic. They gained popularity when rolled out for digital ordering in restaurants and other venues where in-person interaction needed
to be minimised. This was also the case across Europe.
As a payment method, however, QR codes have not often been seen at the checkout point in the west, even during the height of the Covid crisis.
But this is about to change.
More than ever, businesses are prioritising cost efficiency and customer experience at point of sale, thanks to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. QR codes offer easy, safe and convenient digital payment alternatives for consumers while helping merchants
to get the sale they need when cash is no longer a payment method.
In addition, QR code payments are cheaper to set up than manual point of sale equipment and can easily integrate with new financial instruments and tools. Another advantage is the sheer speed of this kind of payment, as QR codes tend to be as instantaneous
as its contactless alternatives.
With Covid forcing consumers to use QR codes for the first time, they’re increasingly exposed to a convenient new way of payments - and we are now seeing higher adoption across Europe - especially in the UK.
Restaurant chains like Wagamama, for example, have seen a surge in popularity for its QR code - which customers can use to download its menu and pay the tab. The technology has been around for a number of years but only gained traction during the pandemic
- thanks to worries about contamination but also better broadband connectivity to be able to complete the transaction successfully.
Meanwhile Tesco and Sainsbury’s have been competing with Amazon on checkout-free store experiences, which have been enabled through QR codes.
Customers use a QR code to walk into the Sainsbury’s store, and then no further scanning is required at checkout or otherwise, as shoppers put their items in a bag and then leave. Sensors, cameras and software decipher the items a customer has taken and
automatically charge their card.
QR codes also enable businesses to offer promotions or charitable donations at the point of sale with greater ease. There is also a use case for bill payments such as energy bills, with OVO Energy recently introducing QR Code payment on their paper bills.
Looking ahead to 2022, the shift towards QR payments is only going to increase. As we become a cashless society and online transaction costs become more of a concern for retailers, efficiency and convenience will be critical for merchants eager to keep afloat
and dominate their sector over the next 12 months.