Why QR codes are cool again (and what to expect next)

A few years ago, QR codes were a joke. Literally.

joke QR

During the pandemic, you can find QR codes everywhere: You can scan a QR code at a restaurant to open the menu on your phone, scan a QR code from Square for self-serve ordering, or scan a QR code at CVS to pay using PayPal or Venmo.

QR codes are cool again because they're a lightweight, contactless way to unlock a digital experience tied to a physical location.


But QR codes do have downsides: First, they're not totally frictionless. Customers must take out their phone, turn on the camera, scan the code, and manually click the link. Second, like any "hardware," QR codes are challenging to deploy and manage at scale. Third, they're often linked to a website, not an app. This means that experiences are less immersive and less powerful, and because they don't lead to an app install, don't promote loyalty or engagement after the customer leaves the store.

Apple has introduced a new technology, App Clips, to address the last shortcoming.

But many large retailers and QSRs are turning to another, more powerful technology that can unlock digital experiences tied to a physical location: geofencing.

While geofencing is commonly associated with background permissions and location-based push notifications, geofencing can also be used in the foreground to power app experiences that change based on physical location.

QSRs are using geofencing to build restaurant mode: a home screen that automatically unlocks loyalty, contactless payment, and order pickup features when the customer is inside a store geofence.

And retailers like BJ's Wholesale Club, whose digital sales have tripled during the pandemic, are using geofencing to build in-store mode: a home screen automatically that unlocks scan-and-pay, order pickup, and in-store coupons when the customer is inside a store geofence.


As travel returns, expect to see hotels and airlines using geofencing to unlock safer, more convenient experiences as well: contactless check-in, automated check-out, and more.

If you're a technology or business leader investing in frictionless digital experiences tied to physical locations, contact our sales team. We’d love to hear from you.