When Customers Prefer NFC Over QR Codes
here is an ongoing battle between QR codes and NFC for contextual triggers such as contactless payment, digital menus for restaurants, advertising, and other omnichannel implementations in retail. According to multiple studies published in 2020 and 2021 analyzing the efficacy of both technologies in different contexts, we now know that customers, in general, prefer NFC-based technologies when social influence and speed are primary factors in the customer's decision-making process.
Social Influence: More Than Just Peer Pressure
When people hear the phrase "social influence," the first thing that comes to mind is a group of friends engaging in a particular action, leading some individuals within that group to do the same thing due to social pressure. In retail, that is only half the battle. The other major component to this is the in-store context, such as advertisements and promotional material to encourage engagement.
In-store context to promote behavior is nothing new. The importance of visual merchandising has existed for over a century. However, many retailers still don't consider the importance of placement when choosing where to install technologies like QR codes and NFC chips. According to a study published in the International Journal of Trade, Economics and Finance, Vol. 12, No. 4, point-of-purchase promotion of both QR codes and NFCs resulted in a significant increase in intention to use those technologies.
That same study also found that social media influence and peer acceptance lead to higher utilization of contactless technologies. Peer acceptance in person within a group is exceptionally effective at promoting behavioral intent, according to a study conducted by the Management and Science University in Malaysia.
Interestingly, an experiment attempting to replicate the results of the Malaysian study failed to see the same results when evaluating the efficacy of social influence on just QR codes alone. However, the study's initial results were affirmed by a joint research effort between Mississippi State University and Cheongju University when using NFC tags alone. The results imply QR codes are less susceptible to social influence than other contactless technologies such as NFCs
Speed Is King
That said, the most significant influence on behavioral intent when engaging with either NFC codes or QR codes observed across all the above studies is performance expectancy and effort expectancy. The likelihood a customer will engage with a contactless experience is a function of the value customers believe they will get from that experience compared to other alternatives against the effort they must invest in getting that experience.
Expectations concerning effort in face-paced or stressful environments where failures to meet effort expectancy can result in negative social pressure. A comparative study analyzing the impact of different contactless ticketing systems in train stations across multiple countries found that RFID had the fastest queue time compared to QR codes, Bluetooth, web-based, and manual systems. Those same train lines with shorter queues tended to correlate with higher satisfaction than those that did not. From what we know about the earlier studies, we can infer the speed of RFID tickets possibly had a positive impact on the perceived experience. On the other hand, QR codes were much slower and had a much higher effort expectancy while more frequently failing to meet performance expectancy.
The table below shows the four compared interaction methods within the linked studies to their correlation with UTM7 factors and their impact on behavioral intent. As a thought experiment, let's assume you are making a ticketing system for a train. You discover that the number one factor in your customer's experience is the speed at which they can purchase their ticket and board the train. Since speed is a form of effort expectancy, we would refer to the table above and choose a solution that correlates positively or has no correlation with effort expectancy. QR codes and bluetooth solutions would not be a good fit since the behavioral intent of those solutions go down as effort expectancy goes up. The only two options we have for this hypothetical would be NFC and manual solutions.
These results also reflect what the Wyrmix team has found anecdotally in experiences we have built for our clients. However, the lack of longitudinal studies showing the adoption rate cross comparing different contactless solutions makes it challenging to attribute the magnitude of specific triggers to behavioral intent.
We suggest that retailers offer QR codes and NFC experiences where a customer might consider time a primary factor in performance expectancy.