QR Codes in Latin America: A Revolution in Digital Payments?

January 10, 2020
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The global use of mobile payments is expected to expand from US$348 billion to just under US$1.3 trillion by 2022 - and experts predict that a majority of this growth will be in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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In a region with low credit and debit card ownership but soaring smartphone use, it’s no surprise that mobile payments in Latin America are rising. And this growth is thanks, in part, to the widespread adoption of QR codes.

Created in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes were quickly replaced by newer technologies such as near-field communication (NFC) tags. But their simplicity and usefulness means they’re now enjoying a worldwide resurgence. Unlike traditional barcodes, QR codes can contain 7,000 digits and are scanned using either a barcode reader or screen, which makes them perfect for use in mobile payments.

In Latin America, the number of people who own credit and debit cards is low. However, the number of people who have access to a smartphone is growing, which means conditions are ripe for a widespread uptake of the technology.

In the US, 76% of all transactions are carried out using a card, compared to 93% in Colombia, 89% in Mexico, and 63% in Brazil. In Peru, only 40% of individuals have a bank account, but 70% have access to a smartphone.

That explains why QR code growth in Latin America is amongst the highest in the world. According to GlobalWebIndex’s 2019 Q2 report, 13% of Internet users in Latin America had used a QR code in the last month, compared to 8% in North America and 10% in Europe.

Benefits of QR codes in mobile payments

The benefits and use-cases for QR codes in mobile payments are wide-ranging. As well as enabling users to access finance and process peer-to-peer payments, QR codes also unlock opportunities for companies to engage with customers and build brand loyalty.

For example, customers can scan QR codes to collect points and discounts, read reviews, watch a product video, or engage with the brand’s social media handles. In 2018, Languiru, one of Brazil’s largest dairy providers, added QR codes to its milk cartons. This gave customers critical information about the product and allowed them to trace the cartons’ journey from the farm to the shelf.

QR codes in Chile: VeriTran, BancoEstado, and PagoRUT

Chilean digital transformation company VeriTran has brought mobile payments to more than 36 banks and over 14 million users. In 2015, the company created a mobile banking app called PagoRUT for Chilean state lender BancoEstado, which enables account holders to transfer money through a QR code or numerical code. Roberto Valderrama, Commercial Director of VeriTran, told BNamericas: “QR codes. That’s the direction the market is heading in,” citing their security, convenience, and speed.

The fact VeriTran is opening three new offices in the US demonstrates the success of the Latin American mobile payments market, as well as the level of innovation in the industry.

QR codes in Argentina: Mercado Pago and TodoPago

Since the creation of a local standard for QR codes in Argentina in 2018, their use in mobile payments has skyrocketed. There is now a range of companies that use QR codes in wallets and virtual accounts, such as ValePEI, Ualá, PIM, and Rapipago. However, two companies clearly dominate the market: Mercado Pago and TodoPago.

Owned by Prisma, the leading payments and settlements network in Argentina, TodoPago claims 1.5 million buyers and 600,000 merchants. A discounting strategy specifically designed to grow QR code users has seen transactions using QR codes grow seven-fold.

In the first 12 months after incorporating QR codes, Mercado Pago processed 8.2 million QR code transactions. In early 2018, just 3% of sales with Mercado Pago’s wallet used QR codes; but by the first quarter of 2019, that figure had jumped to 43%.

María Paula Arregui, Product SVP, believes that QR codes allowed the company “to penetrate and access the physical world." Explaining their success, she says, “the QR code has no maintenance cost… and can be generated free of charge by any merchant who wants to offer it."

Will QR codes transform payments in Latin America?

proxyclick-visitor-management-system-EPeK7w5Eeic-unsplash.jpg

The CEO of Mercado Pago, Marcos Galperín, believes the technology’s ability to connect online and offline commerce means they will replace the physical wallets of millions of customers. "A revolution in payments is coming," he argues. But is that really the case?

Regulatory and economic changes in countries like Argentina may delay their adoption. However, there can be no doubt that across the region, QR codes have the potential to end the reliance on cash and transform the lives of millions who have access to a smartphone. Recent investment by companies like Paypal and Dragoneer in MercadoLibre is proof that the Latin American mobile payments industry is gaining worldwide recognition, and it’s certainly a sector we’ll be watching.

Las opiniones compartidas y expresadas por los analistas son libres e independientes, y de ellas son responsables sus autores. No reflejan ni comprometen el pensamiento u opinión de Latam Fintech Market, por lo cual no pueden ser interpretadas como recomendaciones emitidas por la platafomra. Esta plataforma es un espacio abierto para promover la diversidad de puntos de vista sobre el ecosistema Fintech.

In a region with low credit and debit card ownership but soaring smartphone use, it’s no surprise that mobile payments in Latin America are rising. And this growth is thanks, in part, to the widespread adoption of QR codes.

Created in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry, QR codes were quickly replaced by newer technologies such as near-field communication (NFC) tags. But their simplicity and usefulness means they’re now enjoying a worldwide resurgence. Unlike traditional barcodes, QR codes can contain 7,000 digits and are scanned using either a barcode reader or screen, which makes them perfect for use in mobile payments.

In Latin America, the number of people who own credit and debit cards is low. However, the number of people who have access to a smartphone is growing, which means conditions are ripe for a widespread uptake of the technology.

In the US, 76% of all transactions are carried out using a card, compared to 93% in Colombia, 89% in Mexico, and 63% in Brazil. In Peru, only 40% of individuals have a bank account, but 70% have access to a smartphone.

That explains why QR code growth in Latin America is amongst the highest in the world. According to GlobalWebIndex’s 2019 Q2 report, 13% of Internet users in Latin America had used a QR code in the last month, compared to 8% in North America and 10% in Europe.

Benefits of QR codes in mobile payments

The benefits and use-cases for QR codes in mobile payments are wide-ranging. As well as enabling users to access finance and process peer-to-peer payments, QR codes also unlock opportunities for companies to engage with customers and build brand loyalty.

For example, customers can scan QR codes to collect points and discounts, read reviews, watch a product video, or engage with the brand’s social media handles. In 2018, Languiru, one of Brazil’s largest dairy providers, added QR codes to its milk cartons. This gave customers critical information about the product and allowed them to trace the cartons’ journey from the farm to the shelf.

QR codes in Chile: VeriTran, BancoEstado, and PagoRUT

Chilean digital transformation company VeriTran has brought mobile payments to more than 36 banks and over 14 million users. In 2015, the company created a mobile banking app called PagoRUT for Chilean state lender BancoEstado, which enables account holders to transfer money through a QR code or numerical code. Roberto Valderrama, Commercial Director of VeriTran, told BNamericas: “QR codes. That’s the direction the market is heading in,” citing their security, convenience, and speed.

The fact VeriTran is opening three new offices in the US demonstrates the success of the Latin American mobile payments market, as well as the level of innovation in the industry.

QR codes in Argentina: Mercado Pago and TodoPago

Since the creation of a local standard for QR codes in Argentina in 2018, their use in mobile payments has skyrocketed. There is now a range of companies that use QR codes in wallets and virtual accounts, such as ValePEI, Ualá, PIM, and Rapipago. However, two companies clearly dominate the market: Mercado Pago and TodoPago.

Owned by Prisma, the leading payments and settlements network in Argentina, TodoPago claims 1.5 million buyers and 600,000 merchants. A discounting strategy specifically designed to grow QR code users has seen transactions using QR codes grow seven-fold.

In the first 12 months after incorporating QR codes, Mercado Pago processed 8.2 million QR code transactions. In early 2018, just 3% of sales with Mercado Pago’s wallet used QR codes; but by the first quarter of 2019, that figure had jumped to 43%.

María Paula Arregui, Product SVP, believes that QR codes allowed the company “to penetrate and access the physical world." Explaining their success, she says, “the QR code has no maintenance cost… and can be generated free of charge by any merchant who wants to offer it."

Will QR codes transform payments in Latin America?

proxyclick-visitor-management-system-EPeK7w5Eeic-unsplash.jpg

The CEO of Mercado Pago, Marcos Galperín, believes the technology’s ability to connect online and offline commerce means they will replace the physical wallets of millions of customers. "A revolution in payments is coming," he argues. But is that really the case?

Regulatory and economic changes in countries like Argentina may delay their adoption. However, there can be no doubt that across the region, QR codes have the potential to end the reliance on cash and transform the lives of millions who have access to a smartphone. Recent investment by companies like Paypal and Dragoneer in MercadoLibre is proof that the Latin American mobile payments industry is gaining worldwide recognition, and it’s certainly a sector we’ll be watching.

Las opiniones compartidas y expresadas por los analistas son libres e independientes, y solamente sus autores son responsables de ellas. No reflejan ni comprometen el pensamiento o la opinión del equipo de Latam Fintech Hub y, por lo tanto, no pueden interpretarse como recomendaciones emitidas por la plataforma. Esta plataforma es un espacio abierto para promover la diversidad de puntos de vista en el ecosistema Fintech.