QR Codes Hold Hope For APAC’s Rising Digital Expectations

As much as the digital shift has spawned numerous changes over the past year, the biggest shift of all, Blackhawk Australia Managing Director for Commerce George Lawson told PYMNTS, is the rapid resetting of consumer expectations.

People, more than ever, want to be able to transact when, how and wherever they want, as such the growing appeal of multifunctional apps that can provide that is understandable.

QR codes are a key way of tying all of this together,” Lawson said. “People want more than just adding a traditional payment credential to a digital wallet.”

The access consumers are starting to demand is wider enablement of digital products like eGift cards, rewards points, coupons and offers — and QR codes can make these products easily accessible to consumers in-store, online or anywhere in between.

In short, he said, what consumers, particularly in the Asia-Pacific market, are increasingly demanding is a real omnichannel experience that allows them to pay by whatever mechanism they want in any environment or channel they choose.

Bringing The Cash Customer Into Digital 

QR codes, Lawson said, have a lot of power and potential, particularly in Asia’s various cash-dominated developing markets, though he did note that it’s likely an error to expect every market to be exactly like China in terms of how deeply QR code-based transactions managed to displace cash. China is a remarkable market, he noted, particularly in terms of how much value they’ve packed into the various mobile wallet propositions. Being able to layer a lot of other functionality into those wallets is certainly enabled by QR codes and points to the maximal end of their potential.

But every market isn’t China, he said, and the expectations that QR codes will somehow vanquish cash in the region are misplaced. Blackhawk’s goal, he said, isn’t simply to strip cash from the market — something global consumers are really on board for — but to find ways to make cash compatible with the digital consumer and their needs.

“Cash isn’t going away anytime soon, and different markets are at different positions of cash usage. That’s where we see an opportunity for supporting our merchant partners to access that cash consumer [whilst giving] that cash consumer access to digital services,” Lawson explained.

Access, he noted, has only become more critical as consumers and merchants within the region have begun their journey down the road to economic recovery from the pandemic and discover the growing importance of being able to flexibly tap into contactless payments.

Adapting To A Changing Market

The APAC region and the world as a whole will never be the same in terms of consumer experiences and the new digital direction for commerce, Lawson said. It’s a story told in the data globally. In India, for example, 94 percent of respondents have purchased goods online since the start of the pandemic. Over the last 12 months, they’ve seen a majority of consumers in the region report they are OK with scanning a QR code to add funds into a digital wallet in-store. Further, if provided the ability to load funds in-store 68 percent of consumers would shop at the store more often and 57 percent said they would spend more money in the store than they normally would.

Moreover, he said, massive behavioral changes are being made by consumers across the board, and enthusiasm for QR codes and the enhanced flexibility they can provide in payment options is exploding. These behavioral changes are occurring across verticals and both developing and developed economies where NFC has been in place for some time.

There’s a lot to do across the region, he said, in markets with vastly differing needs. But Blackhawk has a single goal — one designed to unite all those efforts to push progress in a rapidly digitizing context.

“Our role, as we said, is bridging that digital divide,” Lawson said. “There’s a lot of cash floating around in the ecosystem. At the same time, digital is moving incredibly rapidly in all markets driven by mobile and by new consumers. We see our product suite as enabling cash consumers to play in a digital world.”