Columnists Brad Simon Internet Marketing Strategies: A coded message

Internet Marketing Strategies: A coded message

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There is a new tool available to retailers today that can help you to market your store and bring in new customers as well as make shopping in your store more interactive and enjoyable.  It is the ultimate Swiss-Army knife for retailers.  This tool works around the clock providing quick responses to your customers and prospects. What is this amazing new device that will seemingly do everything for you except clean the showroom cases?

It’s a small little box with a hidden code! The boxes are Quick Response Codes also known as QR Codes. Although they have been around for over 15 years, they are just now finding their way to revolutionize retail from initial marketing all the way through the shopping experience.

QR codes are a red hot emerging technology for marketers. The QR code, if you are not familiar with it, is a two dimensional bar code. These were first developed in Japan during the mid nineties for automobile manufacturers to place on car parts in order to have all the information of the part on the little code that could be scanned.

For marketers these codes can provide instant gratification to prospects.  As soon as customers see the QR code, they can scan it with their smartphone, instantly giving them the information that you embed in it.  They have become very popular and their use has exploded in the past year. From 2009 when smartphones first started using QR codes to 2010 there was a 1200% increase. However from 2010 to 2011, there was a 4500% increase. Most of this was towards the end of the year last year, and this increase has continued throughout this year. We have no idea where it is going to be by this Christmas season, but the trend is that it will surpass last year’s increase.

Types of QR Codes

There are different types of QR Codes that you can use. The ones that link to a website are the most common. All you do for these is put in the URL to your website and create the QR code. People can then scan the code, and they are taken directly to the webpage that you send them to whether it is your website, your Facebook page, your Google listing, your YouTube video or some other website. This is the most popular usage and probably what you are most familiar with.

A Word of Caution

Your landing page needs to be mobile friendly. When you create a URL based QR Code be certain to direct them to a mobile version of a website.  Instead of your normal Facebook page IE: Facebook.com/YourUserName, use the mobile version (m.) of your Facebook page IE: m.Facebook.com/YourUserName.

I can’t emphasize that enough.  This past weekend, I was eating lunch at a big national chain, and on the table there was a little tent sign that had a QR Code to scan for something about the restaurant. So I ordered my food, and while I was waiting for it to be brought to the table, I scanned the QR Code.  I was taken to a webpage for this restaurant. It was so small you couldn’t read it.  It wasn’t a mobile friendly site.  I couldn’t read the information on the screen, so I just clicked off.

How much money did that company spend creating these tent signs and the QR Codes and having all their restaurants across the country to put it on their tables?  It was all a waste of money because they didn’t take the time to make a mobile friendly landing page to be sent to.  Always test the Code you create.  Check it on a cell phone before you give it to your customers. Be sure you have a mobile friendly landing page that you are sending them to.

Contact Details is another type of QR code where you can put your information, like on a business card. These use different formats for different types of contact databases and include V-Card, and ME-Card formats as well as plain text. This way you have a QR code that gives your name, address, phone and your store information. Consumers can scan the code and either add all of your contact information into their phone in their contact list, or they can just see the information on their screen and click to call you or go to your store without adding it to their phone.

Another type of QR code is a Text Message. If your customer scans the code, it automatically creates a text message sent to your phone number with a message. This way they can send you a specific text message.  You can use these to send an auto-responder message about your store, a coupon or special offer, or particular product.  You could also use them to subscribe to your text message or e-mail list.

Text-to-Screen is where you can have a QR code that puts text on their screen and gives them some information. You can have a QR code that they can scan and a coupon comes up on their screen for them to come into the store to get a special or any product information or fun facts that you want them to see.  The advantage of this over sending them to a mobile website is that they can display and read the information without an Internet connection.  The disadvantage is that the information is text only, you cannot add pictures, and the amount of information you can include is limited.

You can have a QR Code with just your phone number. They can scan the QR code, and it calls your store directly. This way they don’t have to type in a number on a cell phone. It makes it easier to scan the code and call your store instead of having to remember the number to type it in.

A Google Map with a location marker of your store is another type of QR Code you can create.  They can find your store and get directions from where they are located directly to your store. They can get those directions to your store by car, walking, or public transportation all built in the map, and you can put that right into a QR Code for them to scan.

In-Store QR Codes

QR Codes are often used in direct mail pieces and other advertising all designed to get customers into the store, but you can use QR Codes in your store as well.

Statistics have shown that over 50% of smartphone users believe mobile phones can make the shopping experience more enjoyable, and QR Codes are an easy and effective way to do it. You can have QR Codes in your display case providing product information to your customers.

For example, on a display of diamond engagement rings you can add a QR Code in the display case. The customer will be able to scan it and they are sent to a mobile website page that tells them about purchasing diamonds, the history of diamond engagement rings or maybe just some fun facts about diamonds.

The information can be about a general product category or something specific such as a particular gemstone.   For example, include a QR Code with your display of emeralds. The customers scan the code and information will come up on their screen stating, “Did you know emeralds were popular in early Egyptian times and a favorite of Cleopatra who owned her own Emerald mine.”  Or on your amethyst display have a QR Code taking the customer to a webpage telling them fun facts about amethyst, such as how they were once believed to keep the wearer from becoming drunk.

How many times do you have a couple in your store that the lady is involved in looking at the jewelry, she is trying it on and enjoying the experience, but the guy is standing there bored to death?  He is playing games on his phone or checking the sports score, but he is bored. She, on the other hand, is enjoying the shopping. By having different QR Codes displayed in the store, he can go around and scan some of these codes. It keeps him involved in the shopping experience and it makes it enjoyable for both of them.  It is just something fun that they can do while they are in the store.

If they enjoy the shopping experience, they are going to remember your store.  Months later when the same couple sets out for Christmas shopping, they are going to remember that you were the store that had those QR Codes. You stand out in their mind over all the other stores they have shopped at in the past.  Plus having them come in wondering what new codes you have brings anticipation to shopping in your store, and you can easily make changes by putting out different QR codes.

QR Code Generators

QR Codes are free to create, and there are many QR Generators on the Internet. We have created one for retail jewelers at www.Apps4Jewelers.com/qr-code-generator. If you don’t remember that whole URL just go to Apps4Jewelers.com and in the center of the top menu bar is a link.

On the QR Code Generator page is a form to fill out to create your code.  The first drop-down box provides options to create the different types of QR Codes described above.  The form changes depending on the type of code you want to create and you just simply fill out the boxes.

You can make different sizes of the code depending on how you are going to use it.  You will want a larger size if you are going to print it, and smaller sizes are fine if they are to be used in e-mails or on websites.

There are advanced formatting options that you can use or leave blank.  These options allow you to add lines of text above or below the code.  This enables you to label your codes.  For example you can say “Call Us Today” above a code with your phone number embedded in it, or the product name above the code to use in a display. 

The color options allow you to change the code from the standard black and white images to your store’s colors.  Or you can create custom colors depending on the content of the code.  For example, make the code for emeralds green on white and use purple for the code for amethyst.  You also have the option to change the color of the text you add and the color of the border around the code.

When changing the color of the code remember that you need to use contrasting colors so that the scanner on smartphones will be able to read it.  If the foreground and background colors are similar the scanners will not be able to distinguish the code.

When finished scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button to create the code. The page will refresh and your code will be displayed at the top of the page.  Right click on the code and download it to your computer.  You can also have an e-mail sent to you if you put in your e-mail address. It will have the link to your code in the e-mail that is good for ten days.

QR Codes are easy to create and free to generate. Consumers of all ages recognize what they are and are drawn to scan them.  There is no reason not to try them out in your store and in your advertising this Christmas season.  Go ahead and have fun with them and see if your customers think it makes the shopping experience interactive and more enjoyable.

Brad Simon is co-owner and founder of Internet 4 Jewelers providing retail jewelers the information and training to market their stores effectively on the Internet.  In addition, they provide affordable Internet marketing solutions in local search marketing, social network management, and mobile marketing.  For more information contact Brad at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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