Tech September 10, 2017 20:47


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RAPID CHANGES in digital technology have brought about new ways for global "netizens" to pay for their purchases. Many countries are working towards creating a cashless society, and some are setting a trend and getting lots of attention for doing so.

In China, for example, smartphones are now being widely used as instruments for mobile payments, and everyone there is familiar with Alipay and WeChat - international payment applications that combined have more than 1.2 billion subscriber accounts. In these systems and some others, QR (quick response) Code scanning is the primary method to make payments.

Here in Thailand, QR Code use has been available for a while, mainly focused on serving the approximately 9 million annual Chinese tourists who arrive here annually. 

These travellers are already accustomed to QR Code payment routines at home.

To accommodate their needs, KBank was the first Thailand bank to install QR Code scanners on over 200,000 electronic data capture machines (EDCs) at cash registers across the country to enable merchants to accept payment from popular Alipay and WeChat Pay apps. Later, KBank partnered with SUN108 to develop vending machines that can use Alipay app QR Code scanning. Now Chinese tourists can more easily make payments this way and Thai merchants gain the opportunity to build business volumes by offering payment convenience.

Mobile payments through banking apps are set for promising growth, as QR Codes become a more significant part of retail payment. 

Already, mobile banking payment services have expanded over 50 per cent per annum. For example, K PLUS (K+) has over six million user accounts, making it the number-one mobile banking app in Thailand. During just the first half of 2017, K PLUS handled over 1.2 billion transactions with an enormous total value of Bt2.9 trillion.

Though consumers increasingly use mobile banking apps, they have been less popular with some retailers here. Thus, KBank recently introduced the "K PLUS SHOP" app as Thailand's first QR code-based payment service that can be joined via a simple application process. 

To sign up for the service, merchants use the K+ app to scan the QR code of K PLUS SHOP with KBank, enter the merchant data and set a personal identification number (PIN). After that, they can use this PIN to access the K PLUS SHOP app and get their own QR code that can then be scanned by customers when making payments. Customers may then scan that merchant's QR code on the merchant's mobile device screen, or that same QR code printed on paper.

The most important mechanism in this process is QR Code scanning. 

Shoppers need only scan merchants' QR Codes, then key in the payment amount, before the money would be debited instantly from their accounts. 

Each store has its own QR Code that can be used with the mobile banking services of other banks, too.

Previously, such electronic money transfers required the customer to specify a bank account and a mobile phone number for processing. 

The QR Code approach is more convenient, faster and safer, since any risk of keying in the wrong account or mobile service number is avoided. 

Given the growing number of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand, QR Code scanning is bound to increase sales opportunities for merchants, especially when they use an app that can link to other apps popular among Chinese tourists - Alipay and WeChat.

In the near future, both Thais and Chinese will no longer need to carry much cash. 

They will be able to pay bills via their smartphones and complete daily routine purchases such as buying food and beverages, shopping or even paying for a motorcycle taxi using QR Code technology.

QR codes offer a golden opportunity for retailers in this new era, but to maximise benefits, they will need to fine-tune their systems and adapt to changing consumer behaviour where lifestyles are closely tied to mobile phones. 

This seems inevitable given that the transaction value of electronic payment systems is rising amazingly fast, marking another step toward achieving the "Thailand 4.0" master plan by gearing up for the future cashless society.

Patchara Samalapa is Kbank's senior executive vice-president.