QR Code: It's cool again


John Minor is Chief Product Officer for PayNearMe. John shares his knowledge and expertise on QR code and why this formerly forgotten marketing tool has suddenly become on of the industry’s favorite ways to pay.

Let’s start with the obvious: QR code is not new. They turned heads as the “new hot thing” for a season in the early 2010s (around the day of the Palm Pilot and Blackberry— remember those?) before getting outshone by flashier technological advancements. And yet, somehow, QR code has come back better than ever, offering some practical solutions in this increasingly touchless and remote marketplace — including making bill payments easier, faster and more secure.

First, a little background: QR stands for quick response, and the coding was invented in Japan in the early ’90s as a fast way for automakers to track cars as they moved through the assembly line. By the turn of the century, QR code had expanded beyond manufacturing to retail spaces like grocery stores, department stores and pharmacies – even to business cards and billboards. Yet the technology failed to create a solid footing in consumer use in the U.S., perhaps because slow internet speeds and clunky scanning apps left most people unwilling to bother.

John Minor, Chief Product Officer PayNearMe

Fast forward to 2017, when Apple’s iOS 11 made it possible to read QR code using its standard camera app and Google added a QR scanning function to its Chrome search engine. Marketers jumped back on the bandwagon, using the technology to offer interesting, helpful and just-plain-fun offerings through QR code on products.

More recently, payment platforms like PayNearMe have begun using QR code on paper billing statements. Customers pay their bill easily by scanning the code and instantly accessing their payment account – no password or account numbers required.

How QR code works for remote pay

QR technology is fun and trendy, but it’s also extremely functional. Here are some reasons why:

● Information storage:Unlike a barcode, which uses only horizontal information, QR code can store information both horizontally and vertically. This 2-D coding allows them to carry 100 times more information than traditional bar codes. That’s ideal for purposes like remote payments. Just provide a code that’s unique to each customer the QR code guides them immediately to their pay screen without requiring additional information.

● Speed:QR code works quickly. When compared to the time it takes a customer to type in a URL, a password and additional security information the choice becomes obvious. It’s much easier to nudge customers toward electronic bill payment when it saves them so much time and hassle.

● Self-service: With COVID-19, we’re seeing even larger adoption of QR code due to the demand for remote payment options. Don’t touch that menu! Just scan a code and read the menu on a phone and leave the germs alone. Don’t go to the bank or local office! Just scan the QR cod on the bill to make a payment online.

This push toward contactless and remote options presents an opportunity for businesses to streamline operations in ways that save time and reduce costs. For instance, when a customer makes a payment over the phone or by mail, everyone incurs additional costs: the business pays through more staffing, the agent and customer pay through more time, and everyone pays through more friction in the exchange, including the risk for late or unpaid bills. Not so for remote payments which take place independently and quickly.

● Versatility: QR code offer a plethora of opportunities to promote a company’s brand and improve the customer experience. Because QR codes consist of pixilated dots in a square matrix they can be designed to incorporate a logo, color, message or background visual into a QR code. Codes can also deliver a personalized payment experience by showing the customer specific offers or ways to pay, and they can enhance the overall customer experience by letting them bypass the login and password screen for faster payment.

● Cost-efficiency: QR code have a low cost of entry. Businesses can purchase software to develop their own QR code or adapt their current hardware (e.g. ATM) to generate them. Current vendors may be able to help. For instance, many businesses and government agencies use QR code on their paper billing statements to make it easy for customers to pay their bills remotely.

Strategic payments

Given all these benefits, it makes sense to incorporate QR code into your business plan, and especially into your payment strategies. Here’s two strategies worth considering:

In-person touchless payment:Customers use their QR code scanner to read the code on a product and pay through PayPal, Apple Wallet, Google Wallet or another electronic payment system. The code records automatically in the business’ inventory system, so it can easily track when supplies run low.

Bill pay: Payment platforms generate individual QR code that can be printed on paper statements. Customers then can pay their bill by scanning the code and choosing their preferred method of payment without having to log into their account. It’s frictionless and fast.

Staying power

If you’re wondering whether this technology, with its history of boom and bust, is now here to stay, we think the answer is “yes.” Not only is QR code convenient, user-friendly, low cost and highly versatile, but they’ve become internationally ubiquitous. Consider these statistics:

● An estimated 11 million U.S. households will scan a QR code this year.

● In other areas of the world: Southeast Asia is estimated to scan 15 million QR codes in 2020; Europe 10.1 million; and India 8 million.

● Globally, mobile payments are projected to expand from $348 billion currently to $1.3 trillion by 2022.

Businesses will need to move with these fast-growing trends to retain customers, expand into new markets and provide the fast and frictionless services consumers desire. Not to mention, it’s always fun to see the underdog emerge as the leader, whether it’s in horse racing, romantic comedies, TV talent shows or that undervalued stock you just couldn’t resist. After three decades on the sidelines, QR code has finally emerged as a star player. Now make sure your business gets in the game.