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7 types of QR Codes and 5 Ideas for Using Them July 14, 2011

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 9:47 pm
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Today’s post is another in a series on mobile access for your business from Bob Watson of Digital Eye.

 

QR codes (short for quick response) are one of the newest ways to share information quickly with people’s smart phones or tablets. If this is your first encounter with them, here’s a little more on how to use them.

We’ve just scratched the surface on how to use them. Here are some ideas.

7 Types of QR code access:

  1. Access a URL
  2. Prepare a pre-loaded SMS text message to be sent to a specific number
  3. Download a vCard into your phone’s address book
  4. Initiate a phone call to a given number
  5. Prepare an email
  6. Insert an event into the calendar
  7. Deliver text or GPS coordinates

 

5 ways to make use of them to grow your business.

Collect more Fans — Put a QR Code window slick on your storefront to send passers-by to your Facebook page.
Make your business card interactive — try a code with your web address, LinkedIn profile or some of your contact information in vCard format.
Here’s how to find us — print a code containing the URL for a Google Maps page to your business on your brochure. They can get instant directions to get to you from their present location.
How are we doing? — A table tent at a restaurant linking a diner’s smartphone to a feedback site is a great way to gather more and accurate information on customer satisfaction. New research has found that mobile network activity spikes at lunchtime when we get out of the office and take a break from the grind.
Scan here for more — Does your product compete with others on the same shelf at retailers? Get noticed with a QR Code on your in-store display that sends shoppers to get more information on why they should buy yours.

Get yourself a reader app for your smartphone, like ScanLife, i-nigma or BeeTagg. With this on your smartphone or tablet, you’ll find the QR Code to be one of the fastest and most convenient means of accessing information and interacting with your device.

Where the code takes people is vital. You want them to have a good experience.

The most common form of the QR Code links to a website, so it’s extremely important that your content displays properly on a mobile device

 

  • Graphics and text should be large enough to view in a single column, and any scrolling required should be up-and-down only.
  • Buttons and links should be large enough and far apart from one another to ensure easy touch navigation
  • Flash presentations should be eliminated or converted to mobile-friendly formats like javascript.

 

Sending your customers to a page that they have to zoom in to see with small buttons and missing content can turn your good intentions into inconvenienced customers.

 

Start off by getting familiar with QR Codes from the user’s perspective — download an app (or several) and experiment with the ones you find everywhere today, and think about how you can take advantage of them to grow your business.

 

In the meantime, scan this one to show how much you like Social Pie on Facebook!

What ideas do you have on how to make use of one of these things? Leave a note in comments.

 

Domestic or Import? What to know about mobile apps July 13, 2011

Filed under: Resources — Carla Bobka @ 11:30 am
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In today’s post Bob Watson from Digital Eye is arming us with information and the right language to be more dangerous when talking about mobile apps. There’s no techy jardon until the very end, promise.


Remember the Swiss Army Knife?  My grandfather, Jack Hostetler, would produce this bulky, red-handled, talisman from his pants pocket to help him overcome any number of personal and professional challenges throughout the day.  When it wasn’t hard at work prying at a sticky lid or cutting open a box, it was rattling against his keys and pocket change as he shuffled.

 

I still recall marveling at the vast collection of on-board tools he would deftly unfold and bring to bear on the situation at hand — magnifying glass, toothpick, screwdriver (phillips and flat-blade!), hole punch, scissors, file, can and bottle openers, tweezers…

It always struck me as odd that it was called a “knife”, but was used for so much more than just a sharp-bladed cutting tool.  It was the closest thing I’d ever seen to Batman’s utility belt, and that makes an impression on an 8-year-old grandson.

 

In today’s digital world our daily issues trend toward the less tangible side of things, more of us find ourselves fumbling in pockets (or handbags) just like Grandpa Jack did to find our version of his go-to tool, the smartphone.  Notice the similarity — we call them smartphones despite the fact that we use them for so much more than making calls?

 

In large part its because users assemble their own self-curated set of on-board tools. We open our phones and tablets to check the weather, snap a picture, record a to-do list, keep track of expenses, order a pizza or anything else to help us get through a day in 2011.

 

Businesses have taken note of the opportunity to connect with and retain existing customers on such an intimate, personal medium, and the app-rush is on.

 

Here are 2 startling stats released Thursday, July 7, 2011:

1. Apple’s App Store hosts over 425,000 titles logging over 15 billion downloads by over 200 million users of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices.
2. The second-place rival, Google’s Android Market, announced 4.5 billion downloads as of May with another billion taking place every 60 days.

That’s a lot of apps and a mind blowing amount of customization on our small screens.

 

By this time, you’ve probably had enough experience with your own wireless handheld to come up with an idea of your own for your business.

 

Now for the technical jargon. There are two different ways to construct and present an app to users — Native or Web-based.

A native app is downloaded from an app store, and uses the device’s own computing power and input from on-board accessories and sensors (camera, GPS, accelerometer, address book).

 

Web-based apps are accessed by the device’s browser and are written in open web standard code like a typical website, allowing most, if not all of the processing to be done on the server (in the cloud) instead of the user’s device.

 

There are pros and cons to each.

 

The decision as to whether a native or web-based app is right for you should be based first on your target market and the benefits your solution provides. Consider these questions:

What hardware do your customers use?
How do they interact with their devices?
What do you want to deliver: entertainment, enlightenment, savings, improved service, or simple “wow” factor?

 

Development costs are based mostly on complexity, and there’s really no handy rule-of-thumb yet — pricing varies as widely as the range of apps themselves.

 

The process really requires an in-depth conversation with your app developer. When you do that, armed with answers to the 3 questions above, he/she can determine the optimal way forward to achieve your goals, develop a budget and a targeted ROI.

 

It all starts with an idea.  So what’s yours? Drop an idea or thought in comments and let’s see what kind of ideas show up.

 

 

Crazy is as Crazy Does July 12, 2011

Filed under: Life in General — Carla Bobka @ 11:10 am
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Entries here this past week or so have been a little crazy.

 

We were in the midst of a series on mobile optimization with guest post-er Bob Watson, when Distinctive Gardens was named to AmEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break.

 

Since then updates have been a mixed bag between the two. Its like having ADHD. Hopefully you don’t mind. 🙂

 

Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

  • Mobile – native vs. web apps, what you need to know
  • Distinctive Gardens – measuring impact on Big Break on their business
  • QR Codes – how does the funny looking ink slat impact mobile access to your business
  • Distinctive Gardens – video from Lisa

 

If you have questions for Distinctive Gardens, let me know. Jim, Bud and Lisa will be happy to answer. Just leave a note in comments.

~Carla

 

Mobile Use Trends in Pictures June 26, 2011

Filed under: Learnings — Carla Bobka @ 11:53 am
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Pictures can really make stats more digestible. This infographic nails down major trends in mobile phone use and shopping. In keeping with the mobile series we are doing on our Friday newsletters, this fits in nicely.

 

Smartphones and Shoppers

What do you think? Are you seeing evidence of these trends with your business or your customers?

 

Thanks to GettinGeeky and econsultancy.com for pointing out this infographic.

 

Mobile Homes June 23, 2011

Filed under: Ideas,Resources — Carla Bobka @ 5:06 pm
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Today’s email is a guest post from Bob Watson, VP Sales at Digital Eye in Wilmington, Delaware. Bob recently joined Digital Eye after spending most of his career in the print business. Digital Eye provides mobile-optimized websites and mobile apps to clients around the world.

 

It finally happened this year.  We dodged it as long as possible, but this spring, my family of two working parents and two active children found that our home life, was no longer spent at home.  When we weren’t chasing paychecks, we juggled cars and kids to get to dance lessons, girl scout meetings and play-dates, running errands between pickups and drop-offs.  Hurried minivan-meals displaced family dinner, and the rare event of a free weekend on the calendar beckoned us to pack up, strap in and get away from it all.  The American Dream was all about finding home, kicking back and putting down roots, but we’re all doing a lot more running than rooting these days.

 

Marketers have noticed that we’re busier than we used to be, too.  We’re avoiding their calls thanks to Do-Not-Call opt-out lists and Caller ID.  SPAM filters eat their emails before they can make it into an inbox already bulging with unread special offers.  Direct mail response rates suggest that none of us are opening any mail that can’t be immediately identified as a bill, birthday card or foreclosure notice.  Even TV ownership went down this year for the first time after 20 years of consecutive gains — obviously, there are fewer of us feeling we can sit through the two-hour Biggest Loser finale to catch the ads for MickeyD’s and Subway.

 

So as a business owner, how do you reach your always-on-the-go customer? The great enabler of much of this activity is the ubiquitous mobile phone used by over 90 percent of Americans.  By the end of this year, more than 50% of phones will be data-capable, web-browsing, app-savvy smartphones. Allowing consumers to get content and interact with it, on-the-go.

 

Factor in the rapid adoption of tablets (Nook, iPad, etc), and you’ve got the makings for a revolution. In fact, it’s already underway and happening faster than most of us even realize.  In a one-year span from 2009 to 2010, access to websites by handheld devices nearly tripled, and it’s expected to do so again in 2011.  By the year 2014, Morgan Stanley Research predicts that more of us will get online by tapping on our small-screen instead of typing on a keyboard.

 

Companies, organizations and even governments have to start thinking immediately about what this means to them.  Make a point to check analytics for your website today, and look for the telltale rise in the last 12 months of access by handheld devices.  Results vary widely across industries, but you should find a gradual increase in mobile visitors that today represents only a small percentage of overall visits.

 

This minute portion of your overall traffic may seem insignificant, but you might be missing something.  Take the important step of putting yourself in the shoes of your prospects and customers. Pull up your own website on a smartphone. Actually pull it up on a couple different smartphones. Take a look at what they actually see.  The four most common problems are:

  • Type that is too small to read without zooming in
  • Text or graphics that fall outside the viewing area, requiring the user to scroll in all four directions to take it all in
  • Links or navigation buttons that are too small or too close together for fat-fingered touch navigation
  • Inability to display flash-based presentations

 

If you see any of these issues, your site needs what we call “mobile optimization”, which can be a simple reformatting of your existing site content to facilitate access on handhelds.  Check out www.cnn.com on your desktop and your phone for an example of how the same information seamlessly and intuitively flows into different platforms depending on your hardware setup.  By making your site mobile-friendly, you’ll probably satisfy some pent-up demand in your market and see a renewed and rapid rise in smartphone visitors.

 

Take some time also to consider what’s differentiates a visit by an iPhone from a Windows 7 machine.  While mobile users enjoy the convenience of the internet in their pocket, they’re limited by a small screen and touch navigation, so it’s important to think about why they have come to your site and what they might be looking for.  Consider adjusting your site to give them easy, instant access to that information.  A good web developer can help you to provide an alternate set of focused content for easy access by mobile devices.  Empower the user get on, get the info and get back to their driving.

 

This trend has taken place very quickly, so if you’re like most businesses, there’s the immediate task of catching up with your market (and, perhaps, your competitors).  But the payoff is well worth the effort.  Once you’ve laid this foundation in your new mobile strategy, you’ll have a whole new range of high-potential utilities of which marketers could only dream a decade ago.  It’s a dynamic, growing medium empowering you to communicate more directly with your customers on their preferred platform with a high level of personalization and robust metrics that begs for integration with your social media outlets and traditional channels.

 

Tell us what you found when you looked at your site. What phone type (Android, Blackberry, iPhone) had the best or worst version of your site?

 

The Path Ahead January 10, 2011

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 1:58 pm
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Welcome to 2011.  It doesn’t seem right to start the new year with out talking about trends. As fast as things are changing, there’s no doubt I’ll be wrong about at least some things, so here’s what I see coming at us.

  1. Mobile
  2. Facebook commerce
  3. Facebook customization
  4. Terminology change away from social
  5. Refined crowd-sourcing

Mobile

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in 2010 more than 89 million Americans accessed the web via smartphones. Add on those using wi-fi enabled devices like tablets, iPod Touches and the number grows bigger. We are shifting away from our PC based web use, even migrating away from our laptops. Culturally we are getting the info we want in the palm of our hand, at the moment it is useful. The trend will accelerate. Imagine going to Olive Garden and there are no menus. We all just look up the menu on our phone. Maybe we even order by punching “Alfredo” on the screen.

To-Do now:

  • make sure your site looks good on every device you can think of.
  • Figure out what info your company has that people want frequently, at their fingertips. Consider budgeting for a custom mobile app to make access to the info simple and fast.

Facebook Commerce

Target sold Facebook gift cards this holiday. Did you see them in the check-out line? 12 year-olds could convert cash into online currency. And many of them gifted that card to Gramma so she could play Farmville. Soon, you’ll be able to use them to buy a t-shirt. Or jeans. Or have your Facebook Page customized by a designer. It’s coming, and Facebook will take a cut of the transaction, just like Visa does when you buy something at Amazon. Except when the transaction happens inside Facebook Visa won’t be part of the pie.

To-Do now:

  • Decide what you can transact over the web. Put your plan in place so you’re ready.
  • Sell your Visa stock.

Facebook Customization

Flipping through Pages on Facebook can be pretty monotonous. There’s so much sameness. Giving your business presence personality will become commonplace. You need programming knowledge to install it. I’m told its quirky, but doable. Or hire someone, that’s what I did. It’s $400-700 depending on what you want done. By the end of the year we will see some Pages transform with the seasons.

To-do now:

  • Do it, differentiation is a good thing.

Terminology Change

The phrase “social media” will evaporate. Communicating with customers is an action not a thing. We’ll come up with a better way to say it.

Refined Crowd-sourcing

Q&A sites are coming. They are an iteration of researching info via Twitter. Quora is an example. Pose a question and other users answer and frequently attach the reference article link. I used it today to learn about Xanga. I had an answer in an hour with no surfing. I used that hour to work on a client project. A multi-tasking/delegation win-win.

Those are the big things I see.

What do you see coming in your world?