The QR code comeback and the rise of mobile payments

8th June, 2017

QR codes

Remember QR codes? Those things marketers wanted to force on an uncaring public?

Well, they may be on the verge of a comeback.

TechCrunch has reported that as part of the iOS 11 beta, Apple has been working towards a QR-reading native camera app.

If it works the way Apple wants it to, you’d be able to use the camera on your phone to read QR codes instead of having to download a third-party app.

QR codes are machine-readable black-and-white images that can hold about 300 times more data than a standard barcode. They typically include links to a website or payment information.

While QR codes were invented for the automotive industry in the early ’90s, they started being adopted for consumer advertising in the 2000s. They were popular with marketers who used them to get consumers to engage with their content – except that nobody did because people didn’t want to download yet another app.

If the rumours are true and Apple starts to offer in-camera reading capability, we could be at the beginning of ‘QR code 2.0’.

The reason we’re seeing this now is clear – China.

The mobile payment nation

Anyone who has recently walked the stores in China would know that QR codes are hot right now.

Chinese shoppers regularly generate a QR code on their phone, have the cashier scan it, and pay much in the same way people are using near field communication (NFC) technology to pay with their phones here (think Apple Pay).

Chinese shoppers are also able to download an app and scan a QR code posted by a retailer as a way to pay for items.

Even beggars are getting into the practice of using QR codes to accept cashless donations. (Gone are the days of ‘sorry mate, I’ve got no change’.)

According to the South China Morning Post, some waiters and waitresses at restaurants wear pins with QR codes on them as a way of accepting tips.

The preference for mobile payments has led to a situation where, according to iResearch, payments made by mobile devices by Chinese consumers reached 38 trillion yuan last year.

That’s over half the country’s GDP.

Mobile payments are the go-to solution for Chinese consumers, and Apple, which has been trying to crack the Chinese market, has taken note.

For Australian and New Zealand businesses, this massive shift in consumer habits and a major tech company playing catch-up signifies that mobile payments are going to be an increasing part of the mix.

Australia and NZ are already showing an increasing appetite for cashless payments.

The shift to a cashless society

There’s a role for cashless transactions in helping to take the rug out from under the ‘black economy’.

But the rise of cashless payments around the world has little to do with quashing the black economy and more to do with sheer convenience.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, in 2007 card payments made up just 26 percent of transactions.

In 2016, that mark hit 52 percent.

Without government intervention, the market is making its preference clear: electronic payments have become king.

Tech providers such as MYOB, Apple and Samsung continue to work on electronic payment options for consumers and merchants – and this is being led by consumer demand.

Given one of our largest trading partner’s consumers have led the charge towards mobile payments, it’s a predictor of the future.

And according to ANZ research, 84 percent of Australians interviewed last year indicated that they would be open to paying for things with their mobile if the option were available to them.

The consumer tide seems to be shifting both here and abroad – and the businesses who are prepared for the future are the ones who will reap the rewards.