I remember being in Helsinki seeing QR codes everywhere. This was in 2018 I guess, and the tourism association had convinced local merchants and taxis to accept AliPay. They said it would help the rapidly growing Chinese tourism cohort, who were used to using contactless payments all the time.

Did it work? 

I don’t know. I haven’t been back and haven’t looked at the data for Helsinki and AliPay.

But now we are using QR codes all the time – and tapping our phones on various devices. While we used to hold menus and shove our card in a machine, now we’re all about contactless. What broke the pattern?

Apple Pay started some shifts but the pattern was simple – pay for your stuff at the counter. Most didn’t use that same ritual at the table in the restaurant or at other stores, though some did. Most resisted.

Banks and Credit Unions have been trying to force a shift to contactless payments but have encountered resistance – from their customers, their merchants, and even their internal teams. There wasn’t enough push behind it to break the swipe or card-in-machine pattern. Since I advise multiple credit unions, banks, and fintechs this lack of adoption does not surprise me.

People don’t like changes. They stick with what works. Until it doesn’t…

But COVID-19 forced a pattern to break – we no longer wanted to touch anything. So what did we do? We went contactless. We’re tapping all the time. Shooting QR codes for our menus and to find out more about things. Did QR codes and other contactless systems change. No. They have been around a long time in the tech world. 

We changed. 

We broke the pattern. We opened up an opportunity to try something new – because the old thing no longer worked for us.  


Also published on Medium.