Snippet: If you thought that QR codes were only used for payments, take out your phone and scan again.

If you thought that QR codes were only used for payments, take out your phone and scan again.

Firstly, what is a QR code?

Most of us have seen a QR code by now, but for those of you who have been living on a desert island, a QR code is a two-dimensional image made up of black squares on a white background, producing a unique pixelated pattern. Like barcodes, QR codes contain information, but the information is much richer and more diverse than the identifying data contained in a barcode.

Consumers typically use their smartphone cameras to scan and read QR codes. Current iPhones have a built-in QR code reader in their cameras; other phones require you to download a dedicated QR code reader, and some apps integrate this functionality. Because QR codes can contain different types of data, we can use them in a variety of ways and for a wide range of purposes.

How are people using QR codes?

QR codes are diverse and flexible – two qualities essential when it comes to a technology’s survival. They can be a fun and creative means of interacting with customers, and a smart way to show that you’re keeping up with digital advancements while also providing additional information to your consumers, inexpensively. There is no doubt that QR codes have a place in the modern world, as long as companies begin to make more of an effort to eliminate some of the barriers to easier, more agnostic adoption of this technology.

Advertising

Using QR codes has proven to be a clever way of overcoming two major barriers typically faced in advertising: limited space to display or share your message, and an increasing preference by younger consumers for interactive marketing over more traditional forms (such as printed media and television commercials). QR codes are the ultimate “blank canvas” because you can link them to just about anything – websites, images, text, videos – which makes this possibly the most versatile tool at any advertiser’s disposal. One ingenious example was seen in a Calvin Klein campaign a few years back: the original advert was deemed too “explicit” and banned from public spaces. Instead of cancelling the campaign entirely, Calvin Klein used the controversy to its advantage and placed a massive QR code on a billboard that read “GET IT UNCENSORED”. Users could then scan the code and immediately get access to the uncut version of the advert.

Although QR codes first gained prominence as a marketing or advertising tool, it did seem as though, once the novelty of this new tech had worn off, they would be a flash in the pan. In certain regions, they were dismissed as a gimmick, and seemed doomed to live a meaningless existence…

Social media

In January 2015, SnapChat introduced its own flavor of QR code after secretly acquiring QR code startup Scan.me the year before. The idea was similar to the BlackBerry PIN (remember those?): users could scan a special SnapChat-specific code – unsurprisingly referred to as a ‘Snapcode’ – to easily add friends or contacts to their profile. Instagram is running something similar: users scan a person’s user handle for a quicker and supposedly more convenient way to follow someone.

Earlier this year, Facebook added a QR code option for its “pages”, so page owners can promote it using a QR code. A small business, for example, can display this code on a flyer, a wall, another website – wherever they get exposure – and users will be redirected to the business page when they scan it.

How much value or convenience these QR code use cases bring to users is debatable, but what it has done is make a younger generation aware of this kind of tech and encourage them to become comfortable using it. That has opened up some exciting new possibilities.

Bike sharing

Asia, America, and Europe are currently riding the bike-sharing trend, and QR codes have helped with this unique – not to mention, eco-friendly – transport solution. Keen to jump on the bandwagon? Simply download the app relevant to your area, then scan the QR code displayed on the bike. You will receive a PIN to unlock it, and you’re off!

Interestingly, this system has also worked for car sharing, which, in a nut shell, works as a form of short-term car rental – perfect for those who only need to use a car occasionally. Perhaps unthinkable in some countries, car sharing has exploded in places like Germany, Switzerland, and the UK; the convenient, easy-to-use, and widely accessible functionality of the QR code being a major contributing factor.

Payments

There are so many ways to pay these days. We are constantly being bombarded with new apps or online services entering the payments space, all promising to be more exciting and convenient than the last. As with many instances of QR code use, some of these methods are convenient in theory, but fall short in reality.

Some of the barriers to QR codes being more widely used for payments include the following:

  • Interoperability. The fact that an app can only scan its own brand of code is a major frustration, and consumers have proven reluctant to download single-function apps unless they really have to – “app fatigue” is real, people.
  • Enrollment. Many people just don’t want to upload their card details every time they download a new payments app. Aside from the effort it requires, users remain unconvinced that their details will be kept safe, and this is a fair concern considering that data breaches continue to ravage the online world.
  • Poor user experience. Many apps promise the world, but fail to deliver when it comes to usability. People expect more from technology today – a substandard, confusing user journey with a poor loading time won’t cut it these days.

Some banks and payments providers are devising innovative ways to surmount these problems. South Africa’s Nedbank, an Entersekt customer, recently launched Scan-to-Pay, which resolves the aforementioned issues by providing its customers with an in-app payment feature that reads any major QR provider’s codes without them even having to enroll for the service. It seems inevitable that other financial institutions will follow suit with similar offerings.

QR codes have had a bumpy ride to their current position in the digital world, and while some nations still seem determined to dismiss them as an advertising gimmick, we might soon be seeing their proliferation in the financial world as people begin to transact with them daily.

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Clara Chennells

MARKETING MANAGER: EU

Clara originally joined Entersekt’s marketing team as a copywriter, and is now based in the European headquarters in the Netherlands. In her current role, she is responsible for lead nurturing, organizing local events, managing relationships with local PR agencies, and serving as the liaison between the EU office and central marketing.From science to health research to fintech, Alpa is a self-confessed jack-of-a-few trades. When not despairing about the use of the Oxford comma, she enthusiastically collates, translates and disseminates information for your reading pleasure, and with the hope that we all learn a little something along the way.

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Entersekt is an innovator of customer-centric fintech solutions. Financial services providers and other enterprises rely on our patented mobile identity system to provide both security and the best in convenient new digital experiences to their customers, irrespective of the service channel. With us, they can concentrate on their innovation roadmap, while delivering intuitive, low-friction digital experiences to their customers.