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Identify Customers at Your Counter with QR Codes

Speed up your checkout process and reduce mistakes by adding a customer to a sale with a QR code or barcode with Square Point of Sale, Square for Retail and Square for Restaurants. Once the customer is identified by scanning, you can personalise their experience by viewing their customer profile (e.g. order history, loyalty points, preferences), as well as act on that information by auto-applying group discounts. Scanning can be performed with a barcode scanner on an Android or iOS device or your camera-enabled iOS device.

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Example use cases

Here are some ways scanning can benefit:

  • Ski resort: A ski resort uses customer group discounts to automate discounting for their Season Pass holders. Scanning the customer’s pass at the POS automatically applies a 10% discount by item category.
  • Winery: A winery establishes a wine member club to drive more engagement and customer loyalty. Wine club members receive a member card with a scannable barcode that can be used to add them to the sale. Winery employees can see the customer’s wine preferences after they’re added to checkout, and members then receive a preconfigured 20% off wine club member discount.

Before you can scan

Before you can scan a QR code or barcode, you must:

  • Add reference IDs to customer records in Customer Directory either automatically via Import or Customers API, or manually via Dashboard or POS.
  • Generate a barcode or QR code (printed or digital) from the reference ID, and distribute it to your customers.
  • For native devices running Square Point of Sale, enable the feature from your POS by going to Settings > Checkout > Customer Management. Toggle on Scan customers using device camera, then toggle on Show Add customer button during checkout and/or Show Add customer button after checkout to enable.
  • For Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail devices, QR code and barcode scanning is automatically enabled for your account. Check that your iOS and Android devices are up to date. Your Square Register and/or Square Terminal will update automatically overnight as long as they are powered on and plugged in.
  • For physical scanners, have a supported barcode scanner that can scan QR codes on screens (e.g. Honeywell Xenon 1900). Note: Test your scanner for on-screen scanning first.

Populate Reference IDs

Customer profiles in Square Customer Directory have a Reference ID field which can be used to store an alphanumeric custom/external identifier for the customer (e.g. a member ID for a membership programme, a third party system customer ID, etc.). This Reference ID field must be populated for a customer to be looked up and added to a sale. You can populate this field for existing customers through bulk importing, manual addition or API.

By import

To add a reference ID to new customers, simply include the field in your imported CSV and map the column to the Reference ID field.

  1. From your online Square Dashboard, go to Customers > Customers.
  2. Select Import Customers or Export Customers.

Continue to the data upload screen, add your CSV and then map the fields in the file. You should map at least the name, phone or email field, along with the reference ID. Learn more about importing customers online.

If you’re trying to add a reference ID to existing customers, it’s best to export your customer list first. Open your exported file and add the reference IDs for each customer. Once you’ve done so, import your customer list back into Customer Directory and follow the same instructions as above.

By manual addition

If you have an edit to make for a customer or you just want to test the search for a small number of customers, you can add a reference ID manually from the customer profile. To add your customer’s reference ID to their profile:

  1. From your online Square Dashboard, go to Customers > Customers.
  2. Select a customer.
  3. Under Personal Information, select Edit to change the Reference ID as needed.
  4. Select Save when finished.

Note: If you don’t see the Reference ID field listed, go to Customers > Settings > Configure Profiles and toggle the visibility of the Reference ID field.


Note: The following is an advanced technique.

Using the ‘update customer’ endpoint, you can iterate through your customer list and add a reference ID for each customer. Use this method to keep your customer list in sync with Customer Directory. Learn more about the ‘update customer’ endpoint in our Developer Support Centre.

Generate Codes

Display a code on the web or in-app

Generate a QR code with a generator of your choice and dynamically insert your customer’s reference ID in the data section. Try using the tool below, which can generate a QR code with your reference ID string in the URL:

You can also try using:

Print a code

Generate a QR code with a generator of your choice and dynamically insert your customer’s reference ID in the data section. Copy the image and add it to your document for printing.

Scan Through Customer Search on Point of Sale

A scan icon is embedded within the customer search bar on Square POS.

Scan on iOS

  1. Tap Review sale.
  2. Tap Add a customer.
  3. Tap the scan icon within the search bar.
  4. Scan the ID to add your customer.

Disable scan icon

You can also toggle this functionality if you don’t want to see the scan icon in the search bar. To start:

  1. Go to Settings > Checkout > Customer Management.
  2. Toggle Scan customer using device camera off.

Scan on mobile

  1. Tap Review sale.
  2. Tap Add a customer.
  3. Tap the scan icon within the search bar.
  4. Scan the ID to add your customer.

Scan Customer ID on Restaurants POS

With Square for Restaurants, you can directly scan the QR code with a barcode scanner to add your customer to a sale.  If the scanning is successful, the customer’s name will appear in the basket, and a notification will appear on your POS.

Scan with Camera in Restaurants App on iOS

With your camera-enabled iOS device:

  1. Tap Actions.
  2. Tap Scan.
  3. Scan the ID to add your customer.

Note: Scanning Customer ID on personal mobile devices (iPhones and Android phones) and disabling the scan icon are not available with Square for Restaurants.

Apply Customer Group Discounts

Customer group discounts allow you to apply a discount to a group so that the discount is auto-added to a basket whenever a customer from that group is added to the sale.

For example, a discount of 20% off can be assigned to a customer group called “Loyal Customers”. If a customer profile for Customer One was added to the “Loyal Customers” group, then every time Customer One’s name is added to a basket, they’ll get 20% off the items in that basket. 

You can add customers to a group discount manually or automatically generated by your POS based on sources of customers populating in Customer Directory (email subscribers, Square Online, etc.). The latter of these is called smart groups. When scanning a QR code or barcode, group discounts can be automatically applied, which removes any manual work to look up or add a customer to the sale.

Here’s the workflow:

  1. During checkout, your customer presents a QR code or barcode (which holds their embedded reference ID).

  2. You scan the QR code or barcode during the checkout flow.

  3. The customer gets automatically added to the basket.

  4. The customer discount, which is associated with the customer group they belong to, gets automatically added to the basket.

Some example use cases include giving a 10% off discount to all your email subscribers, or giving a discount to your member customers. Learn more about how to create and manage discounts for more information on customer group discounts.

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