Biz Basics

By Beau Denton November 30, 2010

Playing Tag

You’ve probably noticed them around town: colorful, barcoded images plastered on signs, clothing or printed pages. Mobile tagging (specifically Quick Response codes or Microsoft Tags) has been enthusiastically embraced by local businesses and communities like Lakewood Ranch and, more recently, Siesta Key’s Coronas Park, which is using tags to sell homes.

The concept is simple: A business creates a physical tag with a barcode and puts it somewhere a potential customer will see it. Then the customer spots the tag, scans it with his or her smart phone, and is immediately directed to a webpage or video. If you’re a restaurant, you might place a sign on an ad and link it to an online menu. If you’re a clothing store, you might tag a new jeans display with a coupon customers can download to their phones.

Buzz is building around tagging, if for no other reason than that it’s a fun new way to use technology, and it has a 75 percent adoption rate in Japan—always a good indicator of technology trends.

But Troy Newport, business development director for Bradenton’s Webtivity Design Solutions, says technological novelty is not enough to make tagging a worthwhile investment. “You’ve got to build a campaign around it,” he says. “You want people to see value in scanning your tag.” If your tags only pull up the same website already available on a computer, people will soon stop paying attention.

Newport suggests attaching promotions or discounts to the tag, or linking it to specific information about what the customer is scanning. He says some businesses are already doing this: Local real estate companies are using tags on “For Sale” signs to link to information about specific properties, and downtown Bradenton has tagged waterfront spots so mobile phone users can learn about the history of those locations as they walk.

Getting Started

What will you tag? The possibilities are endless (clothing, buildings, magazines, coffee mugs and road signs, just to name a few), so be creative. But be practical, too: Don’t tag an interstate billboard or some other place where mobile phones won’t be able to scan the code.

How will it look? You can customize tags, “integrating your colors and branding,” says Newport. Since tagging is still relatively new, be careful that you don’t obscure the actual code, or people won’t know it’s there. You may also want to include brief directions instructing mobile phone users how to scan the tag.

What value will you build into your tag? The “cool factor” can only go so far. Consider adding a discount or promotion that can only be accessed by scanning the tag. And if you link to something that is available nowhere else, customers will be more likely to look for and scan your tags in the future.

What will you link to? Since your existing web pages may not be built to interact with mobile phones, an effective tag will link to pages designed specifically for smart phones—preferably with original content, so everything about the campaign feels new. Your linked items should also be connected to the tag’s location. One of Newport’s favorites was on a construction panel at Busch Gardens that brought up images and information about an upcoming attraction.

How will you measure your campaign’s success? Build analytics into the campaign to measure traffic and response. This will help you learn what kinds of tags are most successful.

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