Our most recent webinar was on the topic of QR Codes. As the discussion showed over the past year, driven by the pandemic, businesses have started to realise that QR codes can be used to transform the payments experience – meaning that the utility of QR codes seen in their widespread use in eastern markets is starting to be realised in western markets too.

By now pretty much everyone will have used a QR code to check into a venue, order food or to show their COVID status. This has been helped by significant improvements in the way phones handle QR codes. No longer do you need to download an app, you can just scan the code with the phone’s camera and get directed automatically to a web page or app. The security is getting better too, with various countermeasures available to protect against cloning or substitution.

On the webinar we were delighted to welcome some friends from TD Bank who have recently developed a QR code-based solution that transforms the payment experience at POS. A “dynamic” QR code is displayed on the payment terminal that connects the customer’s phone directly to back-end systems, enabling the customer to do a range of things that would be more difficult to do directly on the terminal such as bill splitting, setting receipt preferences, making private charity donations, entering a tip and so on. The beauty of their solution is that the core payment functionality is not changed, meaning there is no need for complex integration or costly recertification. The other benefit, and a key driver behind the solution, is that the customer no longer needs to touch the terminal – something we are all very sensitive about at the moment. This also means that terminals do not need to be cleaned as often. It turns out that terminals have been breaking down as a result of being frequently sprayed or wiped with antivirus products.

This really is the hyper-personalisation of payments – something in our live 5 from last year.  Customers can choose the payment method best for them and whether to provide personal data by entering data within their own trusted phones and apps.

We were also joined by Neil Garner from Thyngs, who have been enabling charitable donations using QR Codes through the pandemic – so that it is no longer necessary to make such donations with cash. Unique “static” QR Codes (and NFC tags) are placed on items such as charity collection boxes, in shop windows or even on Zoom call backgrounds. To donate you simply scan the code which takes you to a donation page from where the donation can be made, e.g. via PayPal or Apple / Google Pay.

Thyngs also developed a Covid check-in service for hospitality merchants with an opt-in for sharing details with the merchant.  They found that around 33% of those who opted in were not known to the merchant previously.

As the discussion showed, two important areas for consideration are security and integration:

The key security question with QR Codes seems to be how the user can be confident that the QR code they scan (and the site it links to) is legitimate. QR codes can include digital signatures so that the issuer can be verified – as long as the user has something to verify them. If the QR code is captured via a trusted app (such as a mobile banking app) then it can check the signature but that of course adds a bit of friction into the process – the user has to go into that app first. An alternative could be for the QR code to contain a deep link, sending the user directly into their trusted app which can then implement the necessary controls to ensure the transaction is safe and legitimate;

QR Codes can be quickly integrated into systems with little impact on terminals. This is in contrast to NFC where Apple and Google exert varying levels of control over the interface, mean there is a lack of uniformity in technical standards and making updating terminals more challenging. As Gary, our Technical Director, pointed out even in Australia – with its adoption of NFC and contactless – merchants are looking at QR codes as an easier way to integrate services such as loyalty.

QR codes are blurring the boundaries between physical and digital commerce. With them you can create intuitive and engaging new user experiences. And because of the growth in their use over the pandemic, consumers are much more familiar and comfortable with them. It feels very much as though the humble QR code is going to be an increasing part of our lives and payment experiences going forwards.

Milos Dunjic, TD Bank      David Tax, TD Bank      Neil Garner, Thyngs   Margaret Ford & Gary Munro, Consult Hyperion

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