QR codes were once seen as gimmicky – now they’ve become a retail essential. Here’s why retailers are using QR codes to power contactless and engaging in-person experiences.
The humble QR code has come a long way in recent years. It first emerged in the mid-90s in Japan as a way to track vehicles during manufacturing, then it slowly worked its way into the tech sphere, and a few years ago it made a brief and somewhat successful appearance in the social media scene thanks to sites like Snapchat.
But during Covid-19, QR codes have taken on an even greater role by allowing customers to quickly and easily enter a virtual queuing system, or sign up for a virtual or in-store service using appointment scheduling software.
Here’s some of the many ways QR codes are reshaping the retail market during Covid-19:
Joining virtual queues
Instead of asking customers to wait in lines outside their stores, many retailers are using queue management software that allows customers to join virtual queues. This can be done through a number of ways (SMS, store hosts, kiosks), but an increasingly common channel is through QR code.
Major UK supermarket retailer, Asda, which is owned by Walmart, allows customers to join a virtual queue simply by sending in a code via SMS or by scanning a QR code. The customer then receives a position number via SMS and email, as well as an estimated wait time and a weblink to track their place. The supermarket chain also has customer hosts in place to manage the process.
During the initial trial period at its Middleton store near Leeds, Asda found that roughly 80% of customers were joining by SMS and 20% by QR code.
Signing up to appointments with in-store experts
Another way retailers are using QR codes is to allow customers to easily and seamlessly sign up for online appointments for in-store services – customers scan the code with their mobile phones and can easily register for an in-person service in a store.
Contactless click and collect service
Another way retailers are using QR codes is to power their click and collect or buy online pickup in-store services. Click and collect software enables customers to check-in to a store by simply scanning a QR code with their phones and entering a few details, and the store team are alerted straight away.
Many other retailers are taking this service a step further by allowing customers to collect online orders from the curbside or car park. Currys PC World has created a drive-thru collection service at over 300 of its stores, which allows customers to wait inside the safety of their cars while their products are prepared and delivered to their car boots.
Contactless in-store collection
Clothing and fashion powerhouse, Nike, has launched the NikeTown Express Shop service which allows customers to tell a member of staff what product(s) they want and in what size, and the staff member will go and grab the product for them. This saves customers from having to search for items themselves and queue to make purchases, limiting their overall time in-store drastically.