One rapidly growing use for barcodes in retail is in-store payments—specifically, using consumer apps that can generate a QR code, which can then be scanned at checkout to transfer payment information.
Why is this particular workflow gaining popularity? To start, scanning barcodes is one of the fastest, simplest ways to transfer information between devices. In addition, there’s an insatiable need to sync digital systems and physical retail environments in order to improve customer experiences and reduce friction. This is leading retailers to find creative ways to simplify transactions and interactions with shoppers. Barcode scanning is an easy way to achieve that goal.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers and restaurants turned to QR codes for digital menus and turned to contactless payment options for ways to decrease physical contact between staff and customers.
In 2020, we saw major payment providers like PayPal implement QR codes at the point of purchase as a touch-free, cash-free payment method. So, you might be wondering “which stores accept QR code payments near me?”
To dig into the trend of paying with QR codes a little more, here are some of the major U.S. retailers adopting QR codes to enable better payment experiences for in-store shoppers.
The nation’s largest retailer was an early adopter of self-checkout technology, and they’ve been ramping it up ever since. Now, with the Walmart barcode scanner at checkout and the Walmart Pay app, shoppers can scan and bag their items via one of the store’s self-service registers, then scan the provided QR code with their smartphone to pay.
For the frugal shopper, Walmart also prints QR codes on their receipts which price-match your purchases with other local retailers, building a cashback-like balance that can be redeemed at Walmart at a later date.
The QR code payment option also ties into Walmart’s larger omnichannel strategy by linking up with its Capital One™ Walmart Rewards™ card to save 5% on purchases.
Back in 2017, when Target launched Target Wallet, contactless experiences were just beginning to take off in U.S. retail stores. Four years later, in 2021, the Target App combines features like Wallet with contactless shopping, pickup, and promotions to bring all of its digital and physical experiences under one roof. With the Target App, users can “scan the Wallet barcode to apply all your savings—from Target Circle offers to gift cards to 5% savings with RedCard.”
The Target barcode scanner at checkout makes it easy for shoppers to link their in-store purchases to their digital rewards account.
Dunkin’ Donuts reinvented more than just its name when it changed to Dunkin’ in 2019. With a focus on mobile and delivering ever-faster drive-through experiences, Dunkin’ implemented a host of QR code-powered payment experiences in its app.
However, users that still want to pay with cash can do so while still receiving DD Perks™ by scanning their loyalty ID QR code before they pay.
Like Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks also utilizes QR codes for mobile payments. The main difference is that customers pay with Starbucks cards that they can load in advance and use to earn Stars that give them free drinks down the road.
In 2018, the Starbucks app accounted for 12% of the retailer’s U.S. transactions. Just two years later, Starbucks mobile orders are up to nearly 25% of all sales.
To deliver the best customer experience and aid employees by streamlining the beverage-making process, Starbucks has shown confidence that its mobile ordering and in-store mobile payment process is the path forward.
With one of the fastest expanding footprints in brick-and-mortar retail, Dollar General is planning a number of expansions in the near future (including opening 900 new stores). Part of the planned expansion includes a new scan-and-go system. Similar to those at other food-carrying retailers, it lets shoppers scan items with their smartphone camera via the Dollar General app. At checkout, shoppers simply scan a QR code to pay.
Macy’s is among the old guard of fashion retailers moving quickly to transform the customer experience with emerging technologies. In addition to acquiring concept store startup Story, the retailer has also launched strategic partnerships with experiential retail and technology platform providers. Its new Scan and Pay app lets shoppers use their own devices to browse items, see offers, add items to their cart, and even skip the line at checkout.
“We think of the Macy’s app as a key we hand to our customers, a key that allows them to unlock an enhanced shopping experience – a world of possibilities,” said Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette. “With this powerful tool in hand, we give them the opportunity to engage with us on their terms. And we keep adding exciting new features to it based on what they tell us.”
Amazon Go/Whole Foods
We would be remiss to not mention Amazon and their (as of this writing, two) Amazon Go convenience stores. Like other automated stores, Amazon Go utilizes QR codes to log shoppers at entry and exit while the in-store sensors do the heavy lifting of tracking items in the cart at checkout.
At Whole Foods, for instance, Amazon Prime members can scan the QR code on their smartphone at checkout to receive their Prime benefits (5% off all purchases). In addition to Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, Kroger’s newly announced partnerships with retail technology innovators and Ahold’s implementation of scan-and-go and deli-ordering kiosks signal a strong uptick in innovation as grocers adapt to compete on customer experience.
Retail pharmacies played several vital roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, from stocking short-supply items to distributing rapid drive-through tests to administering millions of doses of vaccines.
Part of CVS’s early efforts to provide safe in-store experiences was to deploy touchless payments in all 8,000+ of its retail stores, including PayPal and Venmo QR codes.
These contactless payments also tie in with CVS’s loyalty program. Customers can collect rewards and pay faster with their CVS app by grouping verification and payment into one scan of a QR code via the customer’s smartphone. This consolidation creates a simpler checkout process, saving customers time through a streamlined experience.
The new Kohl’s app lets users gather their offers, rewards, Kohl’s Cash and Kohl’s charge card all in one place. At checkout, shoppers use the app to scan the QR code on the payment terminal and all of their rewards, offers, and payment options will appear in the app on their smartphone, consolidating each step of the payment process into one.
Roughly 50% of Americans live within one mile of a 7-Eleven. Therefore, upping the convenience factor for customers stopping by on their daily commute can pay off in a big way for the convenience store retailer.
To do so, 7-Eleven is piloting a scan & pay app that lets shoppers check out via Apple Pay, Google Pay, or debit and credit cards from the 7-Eleven app. “The challenge I gave to my team was, ‘how do we disrupt this? How can we enable our customers to skip the line, every time?’” said CIO Gurmeet Singh in an interview with PYMNTS. “We continue to think like a software company, digitally enabling our stores, to redefine convenience.”
Best Buy is another retailer that leverages contactless payments as a way to increase safety while also boosting store card usage in the app. Best Buy Pay™ gives customers credit card benefits while simplifying the checkout process, all without carrying their card.
To pay in-store with a QR code, members can show their app to a team member in the store while paying to enable a single-scan payment process.
Created as an AI-driven software platform, Zippin recently opened a cashierless concept store in San Francisco that hints at what the future of in-store shopping could look like. Complete with “overhead cameras that follow customers’ movements as they move around the store,” Zippin shows that QR code scanning even plays a role in the technology-driven stores of tomorrow.
When customers enter the store, the first thing they do is scan a QR code from their phone at a glass turnstile. What happens next is a complex interaction between weight-sensing shelves, motion-sensing cameras, and a virtual shopping cart where everything is tallied up.
Bonus: Venmo, PayPal, and Square
While they aren’t retail stores, Venmo and PayPal enable millions of people to make simple payments each year. Over 350 million people use PayPal and Venmo, peer-to-peer mobile payment providers, to send money with a few taps on their smartphones. Common in offices, colleges, small retail shops, and now in Uber vehicles, these are fast, secure, and intuitive ways to transfer payments without sharing sensitive information.
Venmo and PayPal both provide the option of using a uniquely identifiable QR code to streamline the payments process. So, if you picked up the lunch bill at the office, you can send out this QR code via Slack or email, and your colleagues can simply scan the code to pay you back.
In the COVID-19 era, point-of-sale provider Square has also begun using QR codes to encourage contactless payments. In the case of Square, the QR code can be scanned by a user’s phone which lets them select between a range of mobile payment options, such as Square Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and credit cards.
This process is giving millions of consumers confidence in the ease, security, and sanitary benefits of using QR codes for payments. By increasing the adoption of QR code-based payments, retailers are driving the adoption of scan-to-pay as a familiar and accessible payment method for shoppers across the country.
Explore more ways to accept payments with our free Payment Methods Guide:
From EMV to NFC, QR codes to Apple Pay, we cover all of the leading and emerging ways to complete retail transactions in this free guide.
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