Visiting brick-and-mortar stores to try on clothes, reading printed books, paying with cash, taking buses or eating in restaurants have been an enjoyable and indispensable part of our lives, until the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Consumers being wary of physical contact in our ‘new normal’ has created an opportunity for digital players, including an important resurgence in the use of QR codes.
According to new data from Signifyd, e-commerce sales in Europe in late June were 35% higher than for the first week of March, even with non-essential retailers being opened since June. Sanitisers are widely available, previous cash-lovers have turned to digital payment, older shoppers have signed up for Amazon and other ecommerce websites acknowledging the convenience of online shopping, and public transport and restaurants have adopted QR codes for tickets and menus.
QR codes have become an indispensable part of our new contactless world – and they’re changing consumer behavior in more ways than one - these include:
1. Cashless Society
Spain’s government has recently announced that it plans to cut cash payments and gradually eliminate cash to move towards cashless society, according to EuroWeekly News, one of the reasons behind it is to impede the virus transmission of cash. It certainly has a long way to go, but with regards to what is going on in China, a cashless society is anything but a fantasy. According to a survey, in 2018, 92% of people in China’s largest cities use Wechat Pay or Alipay as their main means of payment. Even in rural areas, the number is 47%, almost half the population. The mobile payment is mainly enabled by QR codes, while the new facial-recognition payment has been gaining popularity since 2019.
2. Public Transportation
Public transportation is keeping up the pace. Tickets for trains and flights have adopted QR codes for some time, but for urban transportation in Europe, it is still something novel. According to Catalan News, in Barcelona customers can now buy bus tickets through an app and validate them through a QR code inside the vehicle instead of the traditional in-person sales from drivers, in response to the health concern for bus drivers as well as commuters. Meanwhile, QR codes are broadly used for public transport in major cities in Asia, Bangkok and Shanghai for example.
On the other hand, restaurants in Europe started to provide guests with QR codes to scan so that the menus will be displayed on their mobile screens. Apart from being environmentally friendly and hygienic, digital menus are flexible, easy to adjust to the available dishes, special promotions and new offers accordingly, and a relatively low cost compared to printed menus that constantly require new versions. However, this is only a start. In China, QR codes are not only being used for reading menus, but also for ordering and payment in restaurants, to make the whole process entirely contactless.
Covid-19 Contact Tracing and Testing
QR codes are playing a crucial role in contact tracing Covid-19, leading to success in containing the virus. For instance, in New Zealand, phone owners are asked to scan a QR code when entering businesses or public-facing organizations, and a record of their visit is saved for a relevant period of time. When an individual is tested positive, the health authority’s contact tracer will determine if the visitor list is needed from the venue so that people who have been in the same place can be informed, the list is legally-required and separately-recorded by each venue.
In Singapore, the contact tracing app SafeEntry requires visitors to either scan a QR codes or their national ID to enter and exit certain premises. All the data including personal information and the exact period of time they spend in a venue is uploaded to a cloud service used for contact tracing.
In China, each individual needs to apply for a personalized QR code based on the personal information they put in, to be scanned while travelling and entering public venues like museums, pubs or office buildings. The QR codes show different colours according to each individual’s travel history, if they have been in possible contact with infected people, or if they have to stay home.
In the UK, individuals who have booked a slot at regional testing site or mobile testing unit will receive an email and text confirmation including a QR code, which is required at the testing site gate per-person for entering, and the QR code will also be scanned and attributed to the individual’s coronavirus test, according to UK government.
At Appetite Creative Soul-utions we work with brands such as TetraPak, Pepsi and Emmi using the latest technology including QR codes to create connected packaging and digital experiences that increase customer loyalty, education and brand awareness, in addition to giving brands the opportunity to better understand customer behaviours using first-party data-rich insights. Digital activity utilising QR codes engages consumers and assists brands in optimising their marketing message to their consumers, with results showing an average three minutes of brand engagement and generating valuable data.
Arguably, it is important for businesses to acknowledge the ever-increasing value of QR codes and take advantage of the new opportunities they offer to make our lives more convenient and contactless. Combined with higher engagement levels, improved brand loyalty and data-rich insights – QR codes have been given a renewed lease of life with infinite possibilities and value for digital advertising. Why wouldn’t you want to find out how they can help your brand?
Jenny Stanley, founder and MD, Appetite Creative Soul-utions