Compared to technology’s pace today, at 27 years old the QR code is basically a fossil. It has survived its share of hype cycles, dislodged competing barcode standards along the way, and even outlived book titles like “QR Codes Kill Kittens.”
By 2025, 2.2 billion users are projected to make payments with a QR code.
Increased consumer comfort and familiarity with the QR code — spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic — spells out new opportunities for organizers as events return to live. Here’s why more events should start evaluating what the technology means for the industry’s future.
Data shows a surge in digital payment and QR code adoption by consumers
Before an event organizer could introduce new technology to their event, they would need to ask: is this something that will actually help my patrons, or am I just creating more friction and adding complexity for the sake of chasing a trend?
After the QR code’s massive adoption among the consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that question no longer carries as much weight as it once did.
According to recent data from PYMNTS, "57% of consumers now say that the availability of digital payment options would impact their choices of where to shop."
Of course, that's just digital payment adoption broadly speaking, but QR codes adoption has trended in parallel. In fact, 1/3rd of consumers who prefer QR code payments indicated that they would not complete a purchase if a QR option was not available.
Other data shows that industries across the board have seen an increase in QR code use, with restaurants experiencing a surge of around 25%, and hotels nearly an eightfold increase in QR code adoption. In U.K. and Europe, 40% of consumers report scanning a QR code within the last 7 days.
Is this a short lived trend? According to PYMTS, half of those who planned to abandon their preference for digital shopping post-pandemic now say that they will keep the new digital habits.
In other words, COVID-19 has been an accelerant for overall digital payment adoption, and that adoption is here to stay.
How QR codes help organizers create touchless events
So adoption has surged, great. But what can event organizers actually do with the QR code as we return to live?
The biggest benefit of QR codes is that they are the fastest and easiest way for events to go touchless, take control of their own data, and create better event attendee experiences. In the immediate future, the two biggest benefits of QR codes will be touchless ticketing and touchless payments.
QR codes for touchless ticketing and event access control
Placing QR codes on tickets and scanning them is not a new concept — whether it’s a QR code or a different barcode format, venues have been doing it forever.
What is different this time?
Unlike other barcode formats, QR codes are able to store a larger set of information, and let you use tickets in more complex ways. With QR codes, tickets don't just grant access to an event, but can also store ticket ownership information, can facilitate ticket transfers, can allow for multiple access levels (i.e.: VIP areas), as well as track custom patron information (i.e.: how many times someone entered a specific event area). Most recently, QR codes are also being used to validate that a visitor is free of COVID-19 symptoms before being allowed to enter a particular location.
And all of these interactions are, of course, contactless.
QR codes for easily managing payments
Since QR codes can be used for ticketing and for managing a patron data, they naturally also lend themselves to facilitating contactless payments.
Rather than relying on tokens, on cash handling, or on chip-and-pin transactions, merchants at events can use QR codes to process transactions with a simple scan between two mobile devices, or a mobile device and a printed token.
The QR code here acts as a payment medium — the process of transferring information about a transaction. This is important, because if the QR code’s only function is information transfer, then events get to maintain control and flexibility over the nature of their transactions. For example, it is up to the event organizer to decide whether event attendees are required to buy tokens for the event, or if they can simply link a credit cards to their account and use the QR code as a stand-in.
While this accomplishes the goal of maintaining minimal person-to-person contact and eliminating cash handling, event organizers also get access to important data about event attendee purchase habits and demographics.
QR codes bring the benefits of digitization without the costs
There are other routes to digitizing event access control and payments, so why should organizers pay special attention to QR codes?
The simple answer is that QR codes now offer all of the benefits, while removing underlying costs.
If an event wants to deploy a system like CrowdBlink and use QR codes for ticketing and payments, they can do so without ever needing to deploy custom hardware. In other words — you can create an event, sell tickets, scan people in, then sell food, drinks, and merchandise without really needing more than a smartphone.
Event innovations that previously would have taken great logistical effort and technical configuration can now be deployed as lightweight solutions. As we return to live and see events going contactless with ease, we will have the QR code and its increased consumer adoption to thank.