Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Automating QR (Quick Response) Code, Smart Phones, And You

Loyal customers, who are less likely to shop online, can be enticed by QR codes to come into the store after they have scanned a code and experienced rich videos, images, or in-store contests. Recently luxury retailer Ralph Lauren matched up with Red Fish Media to design a custom QR code placed in windows at various Ralph Lauren locations. Once scanned, the customer was enticed to enter the store for a chance to win tickets to the 2012 men’s US Open finals and a $3,000 Ralph Lauren wardrobe. Image Credit: Ralph Lauren

The Automating QR (Quick Response) Code, Smart Phones, And You

A cellphone with a camera isn’t a communications device with a way to capture pictures and share them with friends … rather, it’s a web enabled handheld data scanner with a display which automates the way to reach out, get information, be involved socially, and get things done.

In order to have one's phone behave more like a tool than a personalized toy, all one has to do is download a simple program into the cellphone and presto – the camera takes a picture (scans) of a symbol printed on a billboard, flyer, magazine, or TV/Computer display screen then decodes it and has the phone access a “(dot) mobi” webpage on the internet through a series of pre-scripted commands. Quick, Simple, and Easy.

Image Credit: Ralph Lauren

So why hasn’t this form of consumer automation taken off in the larger way it has in Japan and other countries? Hard to say, but get ready because the symbology revolution will be vying for your attention at a cellphone, real estate operation, bus stop, television screen, website, or specialty retail store around the corner from where you live, right now ... it's that weird square with squares in it.

There may be many codes (symbologies) offered by program automation developers, each with their own strengths and benefits, however, if your phone has limited memory space in which to store the software necessary to decode the symbology, then the one code program the cellphone should contain is the QR Code … the best code ever.

Image Credit: Ralph Lauren

This excerpted and edited from Multichannel Merchant Magazine -

R U Ready 4 QR Codes?
By Tim Parry, Multichannel Merchant

CONSIDERING MOBILE MARKETING? Then you should probably start thinking about quick response (QR) codes. These two-dimensional barcodes can provide a vital link between print or broadcast media and mobile commerce.
WHAT ARE THEY? QR codes store information — namely mobile Website URLs — that can be read by devices with cameras, like cell phones. A user with a Web-enabled camera phone equipped with the QR reader software can scan the image of the QR code; decoding software reads the information and prompts the phone's browser to go to a programmed URL.

WHAT'S THE BENEFIT TO YOU? Let's say you have a QR code printed on an advertisement or catalog. A customer could scan it with his cell phone to be directed to your mobile site — and hopefully start buying immediately.

IS ANYBODY USING THEM? Upscale apparel brand Ralph Lauren, for instance, burst onto the mobile commerce scene in August using the technology. The merchant put QR codes on print advertisements, store windows and mailers so that with one wave of a Web-enabled camera phone — with QR reader software — the user is whisked away to a landing page at

The mobile site was initially launched back in 2008 with a showcase of its limited edition U.S. Open Collection and other Ralph Lauren classics such as polo shirts, oxfords and chinos. Mobile users could also check out a Ralph Lauren style guide, watch tennis videos, and read articles about the U.S. Open in real time.

“We see mobile as a key channel for marketing, advertising and commerce for all of our brands and retail concepts,” says Miki Berardelli, Ralph Lauren's vice president, global customer strategy and retail marketing. “QR codes are part of the strategy and they serve as a conduit, providing an easy way for people to access the mobile Web.”

Users can download the QR reader application for free from Ralph Lauren; the technology is also available from numerous other sources online.

David Harper, founder/CEO of Website development firm Engagelogic and mobile content management and social networking software company Winksite, hopes the Ralph Lauren launch will encourage others to incorporate QR codes in their mobile commerce campaigns. But the early adaptors like Ralph Lauren may need to do more to educate people about the technology.
Why aren't more using QR codes? Creating a basic QR code is easy enough: Multichannel Merchant generated the code that appears on this issue's cover in a matter on minutes on (Test it with your cell phone camera.)

Dave Sikora, CEO of m-commerce provider Digby, blames a lack of consumer awareness of the technology, and the inability of phones to accurately read the codes.
But Harper contends that adding a QR code reader application to a phone is no harder than downloading software to your personal computer. You can do a search for “QR code reader” on your mobile browser and find a site you want to download it from. Once installed, the reader application will show up in the applications folder, and its icon will appear on the screen.

And the QR reader does not have to point perfectly perpendicular for the QR code to be correctly translated by the mobile device, he adds. Even a wave over the code can bring the user to the correct mobile site.
Big in Japan

QR codes can be seen everywhere in Japan — no surprise, since Japanese firm Denso-Wave created the technology in 1994. Cell phone users in Japan can click a QR code printed on a poster at a movie theater and view its trailer.

It helps that QR code readers come as a standard feature on many smart cell phones.
“When a customer scans the barcode with their phone, it launches a mobile-ready product detail and ordering page,” says Nina Matthews, marketing coordinator for CBC America. “This enables the customer to grab the page for follow-up while on the go or for sharing with others.”
Once consumers embrace the technology, Harper envisions some merchants using QR codes on the covers of their catalogs. Eventually, they may generate individual codes to be used for each product offering.

Technology notwithstanding, Digby's Sikora wonders how some merchants would handle the creative elements of incorporating a QR code into their print advertising and catalogs.
[Reference Here]

Image Credit: Ralph Lauren

FAQ's from Ralph Lauren -

Frequently Asked Questions (very basic)

What is a mobile site?
A mobile site is simply a normal web site formatted to fit your mobile phone or device.

Is it necessary to download anything to shop the mobile site?
No. Just enter into your mobile phone browser and voila...

Can any phone access the mobile site?
Any phone equipped with a web browser can access

Will it cost me on my phone bill to use the mobile site?
This service is free from Ralph Lauren but charges from your carrier may apply. Be sure and double-check your plan.

Is it secure to shop from my phone?
Yes. Shopping via mobile device is just as safe as shopping from your home computer.
What is a QR code?
These are two-dimensional bar codes—just like you’d find at the grocery store—that direct you to a specific website when you scan them with your cell phone.

[Reference Here]

** Article first published as The Automating QR (Quick Response) Code, Smart Phones, And You at Technorati **

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Media Communications Strategies For Small Business Awareness & Growth

From Facebook to Twitter, blogging, YouTube, LinkedIn, and more, discover the new principles of communication that apply across all networks and how these specific social networks work and their possible inherent uses for your organization. Caption & Image Credit: Saginaw Valley State University (

New Media Communications Strategies For Small Business Awareness & Growth

Ever since the advent of Microsoft Windows in the mid-nineties, which made the computer as a mode of communication more accessible to most everyone, people have been trying to figure out how to leverage its communicative power to have their business interests grow. In other words ... How can one use New Media communications to make money and have their businesses grow to meet the needs of more potential customers?

The next layer that has developed over these last one and a half decades are programs that help people to connect with additional ease to share interests, ideas, information, and just plain communicate on a broader field more quickly. This layer is called social media, and when used properly, social media can help a growing business boost brand awareness, improve customer relations, garner market research, even bolster sales. As the number of people who use social media rises, many marketing experts believe it’s essential for even the smallest of companies to consider developing a strategy to utilize this resource.

The worst effort a small business can put forth in this arena is to enter the world of New Media communications without a focus or a plan upon which the small business can leverage its limited resources to take advantage of the many social media communications opportunities that exist. As always, a business desires to place in motion a plan that will have a great chance at success, otherwise, why bother ... just run an ad in the local paper which fewer people bother to purchase, let alone read.

Logging on to a computer just takes a few clicks to potentiality connect one with thousands of business contacts and customers ... in addition to setting up networking strategies, business owners can use social media to glean useful insights by reading comments made by customers, industry experts, even competitors.

THE BURGER WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING. Research shows that one cannot live on burgers alone. That's why we offer a wide selection of chicken sandwiches like the grilled or crispy Avocado Chicken Club. Think of it as a Smashburger's equally awesome partner in crime. Image Credit: Smashburger Master LLC

This excerpted and edited from the Tucson Citizen -

Small businesses use social media to grow
by Laura Petrecca on Feb. 16, 2012

Hamburger chain Smashburger has become a smash hit, growing from three Denver locations in 2007 to 150 outposts nationwide. And while its Angus-beef burgers and unique toppings have helped to propel its success, its secret sauce is social-media outreach.

Smashburger offers coupons and trivia contests for its 67,000 Facebook followers, replies to questions and complaints on its Twitter and Facebook profiles, and actively reaches out to bloggers who might write about the new Smashburger restaurants opening in their areas.

“The brand was really built on social media and PR strategies,” says Jeremy Morgan, senior vice president of marketing and consumer insights. “Social media is an opportunity for us to engage with consumers and have a conversation, which is different than paid media, when you’re just shouting through a bullhorn.”
“Everybody should take a look at it,” says Dan Galbraith, owner of marketing support company Solutionist and a National Small Business Association board member.

“Whether they chose to jump into social media or not is a question that only they can answer,” he says, but all firms should at least explore how social media could work for them. “There’s a lot of good information floating out there,” he says.
A time investment

It takes dedication to achieve social-media success.

“The common misconception about social media is that it’s free,” says Morgan. “Facebook and Twitter accounts are free, but for small business owners in particular, time comes at a premium.”

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, business owners should decide how much time they can dedicate to this burgeoning arena, says Galbraith. Some may need to hire social-media help.

Either way, business owners should first set goals, he says. For instance, an owner might want to increase store traffic by 20% by offering coupons via Facebook or another social-media site. Or a business-to-business company could plan to reconnect with 10 former clients and re-establish solid relationships in the next three months.

The goals should be clear-cut, but as many business owners have learned, the initial strategies might have to change.
Consistency counts

While marketing experts advocate joining the social-media conversation, most say that doing it poorly — such as combining personal and professional updates or not posting information consistently — is worse than not doing it at all.

“Consumers won’t stick around, and you won’t get much traction,” says Morgan.

There are some basic social media tenets to keep in mind, says Sabina Ptacin, co-founder of ‘Preneur, which provides tools and resources for small businesses.

She first suggests that business owners “baby step it out,” to see what feels comfortable to them and is do-able. Those who can’t contribute on a daily basis might want to hold off on creating a public profile.

“You can’t post once a week and think it’s going to make an impact,” she says. “You need to constantly be contributing, definitely every day.”
She counsels social-media users to think of it as circulating during a cocktail party.

“I always tell people to pretend that they’re at a party and (act) how they would behave,” she says. “No one wants to talk to the person who is always talking about themselves. … They want you to ask them questions and engage in conversations.”
[Reference Here]

A business should also understand that the communicative strata of social media is as varied as there are concepts and interests held by humans themselves. Most are aware of social platforms as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like but many could gain from understanding other social communications platforms such as SodaHead, Pinterest, Google+, Stumble, as well as other syndicated message and image sharing environments.

A business must decide what niche(s) it speaks to, and can participate in upon which they can contribute so as to receive the benefits of engagement. A well placed pebble thrown into a pond sets up a communications wave that can reap incredible benefits ... social media environments are just well placed ponds for well placed communications pebbles.

** Article first published as New Media Communications Strategies For Small Business Awareness & Growth on Technorati **