Some new technologies come on like gangbusters, creating huge initial demand after being hyped to the max. Standalone music players and GPS devices, anyone?
Then there are those tech innovations that sneak up on people. Maybe they catch on with a niche market or gain a small, dedicated following at first, then take years before they finally make it to the mainstream. QR codes are exactly that kind of technology.
Originally developed in 1994 by the Japanese firm Denso Wave as a method of tracking automobile parts during manufacture, QR codes are now found in advertisements to make it easy for people to open a website with information about a product or service, on the tickets issued by concert promoters and sports venues, and especially in restaurants and retail stores to speed checkouts, monitor sales, and interact with customers.
Use of QR codes by retailers got a big boost as part of their efforts to support contactless services in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. As often happens, consumers have gone from seeing QR codes as a necessity to considering them a valuable convenience that they’ll rely on well into the future. At the heart of QR use by retailers and restaurants is the QR scanner app that is integrated into the establishment’s POS system.
How a QR Scanner App Facilitates Contactless Service
Walmart and Target were among the first retail chains to take advantage of QR codes as part of their cashless payment systems. However, the value of QR scanner apps extends far beyond fast, simple, and secure transactions. Restaurants and retailers now use QR scanners to engage their customers and enhance the shopping and dining experience in novel ways. One such innovation is “scan and go” technology that allows customers to use the store’s QR scanner app on their phone to view information about the product and complete their purchase in a single step.
Implementing QR codes requires only two components:
- A QR scanner app, which is typically built into the store’s POS system and is used to process the data that’s generated by the code
- A QR scanning device, which in most cases is the camera built into the person’s smartphone
The QR code can be designed to perform a range of operations when it is scanned, such as opening a webpage, displaying a restaurant menu, or showing product information from a store’s online catalog. By allowing customers to find fast and accurate answers to their questions on their own, employees are able to spend more time addressing other customer needs and attending to other important tasks.
In addition, QR codes introduce customers to the store’s online presence, which extends the business’s footprint and helps convert occasional customers into regulars. While young consumers are driving the trend toward empowering shoppers by putting them in control of the retail experience, all age groups increasingly appreciate being able to connect to and interact with their favorite stores and restaurants whenever and wherever they choose to do so.
QR Codes and Cloud-based POS Systems: The Perfect Match
The efforts made by restaurants and retailers to minimize contacts for customers and employees as a way to promote safe shopping and dining are having some unexpected positive impacts on their operations. For example, restaurants are replacing traditional menus with QR codes that customers scan to view the establishment’s fare. This allows the restaurants to customize their menus via their POS system to make changes on the fly, such as removing or changing daily specials when they run out.
In addition, retailers now use QR codes to provide customers with sizing guides because they have had to close their dressing rooms. As a result, shoppers have access to much more information about the product than they had previously, including the type of fit (snug European or looser American) and fabric (special care instructions and other attributes). Stores are taking advantage of this opportunity to connect more directly with their customers by adding discounts and other special offers to the codes.
It’s important for stores to avoid leaving some of their customers out of the loop when they adopt QR scanner apps. The information displayed when the code is scanned has to be formatted correctly for the device it will be viewed on, for example, and restaurants and shops need to ensure any price changes are recorded in the apps in a timely manner. Some customers will need assistance dealing with the technology, which can tax the store’s staff, and stores will require a backup plan, such as paper menus and printed information, in the event of a tech outage.
Three Steps to Successfully Implement a QR Scanner App
QR codes may be free and easy to create, but to realize their benefits stores need to be aware of the technology’s gotchas. When done right, QR codes let stores complete every part of a sales transaction without requiring any physical contact between customers and employees:
- Customers use the codes as they shop to find out more about the products they’re interested in.
- When they’re ready to make a purchase, they can swipe their phone over the code to complete the transaction quickly and securely.
- A complete record of the sale is recorded for the store to use for future analytics and to create a record of the customer’s purchase history.
- The codes can be used to schedule delivery of the products or to arrange for curbside pickup.
Updating your POS system to support a QR scanner app entails three steps:
- Create the QR codes for specific functions, such as viewing a menu or catalog, linking to a website, or directing customers to a payment page.
- Make it simple for customers to find and scan the codes by adding them to product tags or in-store displays, or by sending them to customers via email or online ads.
- Include the ability for customers to get answers to their questions or otherwise interact with the store via the codes, such as notifying customers of the status of their orders or allowing them to process returned items.
It’s ironic that staying in close contact with customers is more important than ever for retailers at a time when the emphasis is on not making contact with customers, at least in the physical sense. QR scanner apps will play an increasingly important role in retail and restaurant environments in the future, even after handshakes, hugs, and happy crowds make their glorious return.
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