Why phones will unlock more value for businesses as customers return

April 15, 2021

The last year has encouraged all generations to use their mobile more than ever: shopping online, ordering drinks, checking into venues, or browsing while you shop became the way of life. Our relationship with the computer in our pocket has become a serious factor in our shopping equation creating new behaviours and ways we interact with what we purchase.


Despite numerous promises to merge digital and physical worlds, QR codes never really took off until this past year. In September 2020 80% of UK smartphone users said they’d scanned a QR code during the pandemic (mobileiron). The increased pressure to keep things contact free have seen them crop up in all shopping contexts, with more time in the limelight, consumer understanding has grown too. QR codes have finally become understood and we will see more blending physical and digital worlds to enhance customer experience. With 53% of consumers wanting to see QR codes used more broadly in future (mobileiron) it’s something that restaurants and bars will continue to use widely but could be instrumental for retail who want to add a touch of online to their real-world experiences.

Café Bar – showing how they can be used to pay at table
QR Code Chimp – providing QR codes for education in retail


With the economic impact of COVID being felt across Europe, value is front of mind as consumers are shop. The latest data from McKinsey suggests that one in three shoppers are looking for ways to save money and, as a result, we’re seeing a rise in apps that help you save. Across Europe Lidl’s app is seeing wide adoption (SimilarWeb) as consumers hunt for value. Lidl’s app is a new evolution for loyalty cards, with the ability to be used across borders, incorporating partner offers and benefits that are easy to use in store driving home an even greater sense of value for the shopper. Additionally, affordable clothing apps like SHEIN and Sisdress are seeing widespread adoption across Europe. As shops slowly begin to open again, expect users to shop with one hand on their phone comparing offers instore with what’s available online.

Lidl – Lidl Plus app which launched across Europe


Economic pressure combined with a more suitability focused consumers means second-hand goods are experiencing a huge growth. Vinted, a marketplace for selling second-hand clothes, has seen huge growth across Europe, topping the most downloaded shopping app in Italy, Germany, UK and France (SimilarWeb).  Facebook Marketplace has similarly seen increased usage as people spent longer online and more time browsing social media looking for bargains (15% of Facebook users using the marketplace platform – Facebook). This wave of second hand is likely to continue as a more sustainable way of shopping and finding bargains that typical retailers. Brands like H&M and Zalando have launched their own second-hand platforms and it’s likely this trend will continue to grow as sustainability and economic concerns remain front of mind.

Vinted – Offers anyone the chance to sell their clothes second-hand


Covid has changed a lot of the relationships in our lives and our relationship with is one of them. QR codes offer the ability to build a bridge between digital and physical boosting the experience by providing easier ways to purchase, education on products or exciting virtual activations which add value to the shopper. Apps that offer savings provide value by ensuring consumers don’t miss out on the best deals, preventing regret post purchase and boosting reassurance as they shop. And finally, the second-hand growth is creating value through the availability of high-quality products at affordable prices and capitalises on a more environmentally conscious consumer.

Are these trends here to stay?

All these trends look like they’re here to stay. In an environment where value matters anything which offers improved experience, quality or economic incentives will win out. QR codes have experienced the renaissance they deserved and provide such a good shortcut between offline and online that their almost limitless possibilities will mean we continue to see them explode in popularity. The rising price consciousness should see new loyalty approached like Lidl Plus really take off as shoppers look to get the best bang for their buck. Finally the second-hand marketplace will go from strength to strength concerns about sustainability and a want for better quality products at lower prices are driving penetration across Europe. This coupled with major tech players like Facebook competing with exciting upstarts like Vinted and the veteran players of H&M should provide consumers with a wealth of options at their fingertips.

Written by Guy Peters, Planner