Return of the QR codes
Depending on where you live, googling the term “QR code” often pulls up very contradicting results.
While QR codes have been adopted for diverse applications in diverse ways in many parts of Asia in the past decade—from facilitating payments via mobile and exchanging contact details to unlocking of bicycle-sharing systems and more, they haven’t made their presence felt equally in America.
COVID-19, however, might be forcing this to change. With touchless experiences becoming a key tenet of business adjustments during the pandemic, American companies are taking inspiration from their Asian counterparts to accommodate shifting consumer habits. Recent research has shown that 11 million households will scan a QR code in 2020, a huge jump from the 6.2% scanning rate in 2011.
So why did QR codes fail to catch on in America? We could perhaps attribute it to insufficient technology maturity when they were introduced in the country. You had to download an app specifically for scanning QR codes, and mobile customer experience was not as optimized as it is today for most brands. Such limitations obscured the convenience that QR codes were supposed to provide.
However, Asia has a different story to tell when it comes to QR codes. Take the example of China, where QR codes have seen the most widespread adoption. The technology took off with WeChat. With a built-in QR code scanner, the app allows users to scan others’ codes to add them as contacts. More importantly, there is the option of using the codes to make or receive payments, and that has made WeChat and other apps like Alipay integral parts of China’s increasingly cashless everyday experience.
In fact, the Chinese government has taken it a step further. Using a color-based “health code” system, PRC citizens are now allowed entry and exit to locations in their daily routines based on the “color” that shows up on their app. The colors are determined by a survey they take on their medical condition and contact history with COVID-19 positive individuals. The app then indicates whether the user should be quarantined and for how long.
Determined by a survey they need to take, this reinforces quarantine periods for individuals that have come into contact with COVID-19 positive individuals or who exhibit potential symptoms.
While this has not been adopted globally, here are some other uses for QR codes that may soon become commonplace across borders.
- Contactless menus
Even in America, many restaurants have adopted QR code menus. They allow customers to simply scan a QR label at the table to load the menu on their mobile phones. This not only reduces risks of viral transmission associated with physical menus, but minimizes the environmental footprint created by having to print out and laminate individual menus.
- Product information
QR codes can serve as a helpful bridge for today’s shoppers, who often traverse both the online and the offline worlds simultaneously. Shoppers who may want to know if a shirt is sustainably made can scan QR code on the tag to learn more about how the shirt was made. They could also choose to purchase the shirt directly if the store is out of sizes.
- Replacing tickets
Quite a few theaters, music venues, and sports arena have replaced physical tickets with QR codes. These alternatives save consumers who are more forgetful the panic of realizing too late that they have left the tickets at home. More importantly, venues can avoid spending money on ticket production and reduce check-in time for their patrons, thus delivering a more seamless experience. QR codes, incorporated into promotional posters and media assets, also open up innovative ways of inviting pedestrians or online consumers to explore engaging content on upcoming events with a quick scan.
- Unified QR code payment
In a climate of fragmented e-payment systems, Singapore rolled out the world’s first unified payment QR code called the SGQR that is compatible with 27 different payment schemes. Customers can simply log into their preferred payment scheme app, scan the merchant’s SGQR label displayed at payment counters, and enter the payment amount. If adopted globally, credit cards may soon become a thing of the past, speeding up payment processes and keeping counters clutter-free.
Such initiatives are already in the pipeline in Hong Kong and Malaysia, while Singapore is in the process of opening up this electronic funds transfer service to other non-bank e-wallet payment solutions to help more people enjoy the open and accessible alternative that SGQR provides.
However, QR codes can provide more than just convenience and cost-savings if integrated with the correct tools. They serve as a key to unlocking consumer data that, if strategically leveraged by digital marketers, can deliver a deeper understanding of their customers.
For example, QR codes generated by Resulticks is encapsulated with a Smart Link, which allows marketers to identify their offline audience members, connect or create audience identities, enrich customer insights, and facilitate continuous, contextual experiences. QR codes, supported by the right underlying technology, can produce a rich array of analytics on marketing performance, ROI impact, and online-offline attribution.
Interested to learn more about the potential of QR codes for your company? Reach out to us at [email protected] to speak with an expert.