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How Businesses Can Use QR Codes


19 May 2021

7 minute read

The QR code's resurgence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic makes it a must for those who want to socially distance and limit physical interactions with others. More and more people are turning to technology, where its easy accessibility allows them complete independence from their surroundings. Whether you're ordering food, making a payment or saving a business' contact details, everything is at your fingertips.

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With the outbreak of COVID-19 there's been a resurgence of QR code use. As it became a necessity for people to socially distance and limit physical contact, QR codes proved the solution. Beyond checking in to venues and the ability to contact trace, you can view menus, order food, pay bills or visit a business' website within moments, with just one scan.

In many Asian countries, QR code payments have been a popular choice even before the COVID-19 pandemic, simply because they're more accessible than physical payment terminals. For many small and micro businesses in Asia, this technology has been a game changer. QR payments are also widely used within Alipay and WeChat, China's most-used digital payment wallets.

But QR codes aren't anything new! They've been around for nearly three decades and were first introduced in the Japanese auto industry. Although not designed specifically for the industry, the Toyota Group was first to adopt the codes, to aid in efficient production and to detect and track automobile parts. The codes were prominent again in the early 2000s, but only gained real popularity a few years ago. Before the ability to simply use your camera to read a QR code, you had to download an app. While these were normally free, it could be tedious and not something all consumers wanted to do.

What is a QR Code?

QR is short for "quick response," and when the high-density barcode is scanned, users can access or transfer information immediately. To scan a QR code, customers simply aim their viewfinder on their camera directly at the code. Without having to press anything, a pop-up notification appears for them to click. Today most smart phones have in-built QR code readers, too.

The Rise of QR Codes

QR codes are two dimensional and can hold a vast amount of information, more so than say, a barcode. This, coupled with how easy they are to generate and use, has led to the codes being widely used for contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic across the world.

But what is driving the rise of QR codes? The Australian economy has seen a sharp decline in cash usage - a trend that the Coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated. Is it any surprise then, that we have one of the highest penetration rates of point-of-sale terminals in the world! Parallel to this trend, the number of ATMs in the country are on the decline.

Technologies like QR code payments are filling this emerging gap with ease. For example, although NFC technologies are becoming popular, it's difficult to incorporate these on paper bills. On the other hand, a QR code printed on any bill or invoice can simply be scanned by consumers to proceed to a payment page.

To further support the adoption of QR codes among merchants, the New Payments Platform (NPP) released a QR code standard in 2019. According to the NPP website, the standard, "has been designed to support a consistent user experience across a number of NPP use cases including e-commerce, invoices, terminals and P2P scenarios." You can find the specifications here.

According to a white paper released by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, our economy could become cashless by 2026. This is largely thanks to Australians using new real-time payment methods and self-service options like Osko and QR codes.


For starters, QR codes are straightforward for consumers to use, and given that over 75% of Australians use a smartphone, there's little concern about a customer's ability to use QR codes to interact with a business. For businesses, remaining open during the global pandemic and putting their customers' safety first, benefited businesses greatly. But there are many benefits to the use of codes, so let's take a look.

Contactless Transactions

QR codes allow transactions to be contactless and have been a significant perk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers can interact from their mobile device without having to be face-to-face, even more a moment. For instance, retailers simply display a QR code on a terminal and customers can scan the code with their smartphone. This allows customers to make a payment without having to interact with an employee.

These touchless interactions have now become widespread in the hospitality industry. Restaurants, bars and cafes use QR codes to allow customers to view their menu digitally, place 'touchless orders' and pay, all by simply scanning a code, without ever leaving their seat. Locally, Roll'd, the Vietnamese casual food chain, is making innovative use of QR codes in their make-at-home kits. Customers need only scan the code on their meal box to start viewing cooking demonstrations in a language of their choice.

Simplified Payments

QR payments reduce the handling of cash and credit cards and allow customers to pay by using the QR code attached to the business. Using codes has become more popular among tradespeople across the country. Forget entering fiddly details into your banking app or having cash in advance; tradies are now adding QR codes to digital invoices to facilitate quicker, easier payments. There's no need for paper receipts either when everything is done electronically.

More importantly, unlike PoS equipment, QR code payments don't need additional investment in hardware to facilitate payments.

Improved Marketing Opportunities

The applications of QR codes in both proximity marketing and digital marketing campaigns make them relevant for businesses of all sizes. Merchants can use QR codes to reveal special deals or discounts, direct users to download an app or to a website, register for an event, or to prompt them to leave a review for your business. Using QR codes eliminates friction as customers don't have to type a URL or remember specifics about a business.

Using a QR code for a business can help track your marketing's effectiveness and offer other helpful analytics. Companies can easily see if the marketing tools they have implemented are reaching their customers.

Helps Boost Online Traffic

By adding QR codes to marketing material or business cards customers can be easily and quickly directed to your website, social channels or special offers instantly.

Case in point: Nike collaborated with WeChat to create custom QR codes for its customers. After scanning the code, customers were directed to follow Nike and then click on an image. Immediately after, they would receive a message from Nike with a customised shoe matching the colours in the image selected.

And a significant benefit to using QR codes is reducing the cost of printing physical material. Allowing customers to scan a code to receive a variety of information is much more cost effective than printing hundreds of pieces of collateral.


Although QR codes have an array of benefits for both merchants and consumers, it's important to also consider some of the risks they present. The biggest concern is fraud. For instance, is a consumer scans a QR code that leads to a fraudulent merchant site, they may be exposed to scams like phishing or identity theft.

But there's hope for a more streamlined QR payment system as nations bodies such as the RBA take a keen interest in emerging payment systems. Here's what the RBA says in this article recently published, "The Bank understands that there are now a number of merchants accepting QR-code based payments. The Bank would be interested in receiving information from stakeholders about the current extent of their use, any future proposed adoption of QR-code based payments, and any potential policy issues they raise.

QR payments are a growing opportunity and can help you remain competitive in an evolving market. To learn about how you can use innovative and secure payment solutions for your business, get in touch with our team.