QR codes (quick response codes) were interesting for a short time until they weren’t. Designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan, QR codes were all about screws, exhaust pipes and door handles, until they weren’t. QR codes quickly became one of the most used two dimensional codes globally from around 2010 and 2020 with its added dimension of a global pandemic caused a tectonic shift in the use of QR codes, especially in financial circles. Consumers in China, India and a lot of Asian countries who had limited banking opportunities but were adept on their mobile devices, adopted the code for quick payments when national payment codes were introduced.
Easy to implement, deploy and with few infrastructure costs, QR codes need only accounts with providers who supply the code for the cashless transaction to take place. This simplistic cashless payment transaction became the norm in many Asian countries when cash’s ability to spread the COVID virus created concern among consumers. The hygiene concerns have now made mobile devices critical when it comes to payments and financial transactions and the ease of use will accelerate the adoption within Western countries, especially the US, Europe and Australia.
Small to medium businesses can provide QR touchless payment solutions that normally would have required expensive development but now can be set up without requiring dedicated hardware systems like PIN machines. The flexibility gained by using QR codes can enable other payment options aside from cards and this has also unlocked open banking opportunities. With no card or account details disclosed you can see why large e-wallet providers such as PayPal roll out QR code capabilities, expediting the uptake of the code, eventually providing ubiquitous payment practice for Western countries. For suppliers adopting the QR payment system, the ease of transacting for their clients will hold them in good stead and help create loyalty, a capability that can also be incorporated within the code.
The pandemic will eventually recede but hygiene, effortless and frictionless transactions, mobile efficiency and habits formed over the last year will transform the QR code into a global standard for information, transaction and financial simplicity. Even in recession, the pandemic will prove to be the global equaliser for QR codes.