Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How the Tablet is changing the online Shopping Experience

I’m often told by folks that once they buy a tablet, they give up their laptop. While less than 4.5% of all computers shipped in 2010 were in the tablet format, Morgan Stanley predict that number to increase to 20% in the next two years.

This is great news for retailers who are jumping on iPad and other tablets to create new retail interfaces that provide an enhanced shopping experience compared to your typical e-commerce site. These new apps are more lifestyle oriented, and offer a curated selection of the top featured items or selections around certain themes – just like a magazine or catalogue.

With a quick swipe of the finger, it’s easy to drag an image and drop it into a cart. Image and video quality are often superior to a phone or computer. These apps are much more about presentation and visual merchandising and the “less is more” approach means that the consumer is not overwhelmed with selection.

At Net-a-Porter, the online designer fashion retailer, currently, about 15 percent of their shoppers buy from the iPad app.

“The iPad app is really our magazine app,” said Alison Loehnis, vice president of sales and marketing for Net-a-Porter. Its app was introduced last summer, and has been downloaded 120,000 times.

“Our site was founded on the desire to create a fashion magazine that you can shop from, and this whole notion of literally being able to move things around on the page and slide things into a shopping basket and touch things with your fingers the way you would do in a magazine is really a dream come true,” Ms. Loehnis said.

At Gilt, the innovative flash sale site featured here, the iPad app “truly is sort of an entertainment source during the member’s downtime” said the company’s chief product officer, Stefan Pepe.

Gilt’s sales start at a specific time with a limited amount of merchandise, and so its Web site and iPhone app are geared toward quick shopping. Although Gilt members shop flash sales on the iPad app, they can also use it to look at clothes as they would in a fashion magazine — a different experience. Shoppers can zoom in on the images closely enough to see the stitching on a shoulder seam or the lace fringe on the bottom of a skirt, for instance, and can drag items to their shopping carts without leaving the page.

TheFind does the comparison shopping for you online. Once you select a style/colour, it gives you alternative. In TheFind’s tablet app, a shopper can see the typical catalog-style shots, like of a living room filled with Crate & Barrel furniture, or can view individual photographs and descriptions of each item in the shot, like the pillows or lamps.

Mr. Kumar of TheFind said the app was a reaction, in part, to the overwhelming shopping options available online. “If I said, let’s show you every possible shoe on the planet, you’d be exhausted,” Mr. Kumar said. “A lot of these retailers use the catalog to tell people what they have: its things they’ve curated and picked.”

Share your favorite tablet apps or join me in tablet envy :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Integrated marketing campaigns - 14 tips on using QR codes

Ever pass one of these codes on the street or in a magazine and wonder what it's all about? These are QR codes, a 2D barcode that can be a powerful and innovative tool in your integrated marketing campaign mix.

Here are the top 14 tips from interactive expert Angie Scottmuller who runs a strategic consultancy Interactive Artisan, that specializes in leveraging emerging technologies to improve user engagement, optimize conversion, and continually enhance the customer experience

1. A QR Code is a 2D Barcode

QR codes are an encoded barcode image resembling a square-like maze. Unlike a 1-dimensional UPC code, a 2-dimensional barcode stores data in both directions and can be scanned vertically or horizontally to be decoded.

1D versus 2D Barcode Comparison

2. 2D Barcodes Can Store a Variety of Data

A traditional 1D barcode (UPC/EAN) stores up to 30 numbers, while a 2D barcode (QR) can store up to 7,089 numbers. The additional storage capacity accommodates a variety of data beyond numbers:

  • Text
  • Hyperlink
  • Telephone number (Phone call)
  • SMS/MMS message
  • Email (Send message)
  • Contact entry (vCard or meCard)
  • Calendar entry (vCalendar)

Storing a hyperlink presents a myriad of possibilities beyond just loading a web page -- play a video, download a mobile app, check-in on Foursquare, update a Twitter status, "Like" a Facebook page, display map directions, and more.

3. Read/Decode a 2D Barcode by Scanning it With a Smartphone

(A 2D barcode reader app is required to decode the encoded data.)

2D Barcode Scanning Process

4. 2D Barcodes Can be Placed in and on Nearly Any Location

Once the barcode image is created, it can be printed on nearly any surface and location -- newspapers, TV ads, billboards, temporary tattoos, product packaging, clothing labels, cake frosting, and more. This enables you to drive traffic, interaction, and conversion from anywhere. 2D barcodes excel at bringing non-digital media to life.

Note: Use caution placing barcodes online. They should always enhance the user experience. If a user could click a hyperlink, don't make them scan a code to complete the same task.

Bear in mind the location must be easily scannable. Plastic frames and packaging can reflect light. Lighting can cast shadows, and hillsides and subways can kill Wi-Fi access. Consider all contextual factors that could impact the scanning experience.

5. Mobile Barcode Scanning is on the Rise

QR codes can be used for nearly any function (logistics, advertising, customer service, etc.) for B2B and B2C across a variety of industries:

6. QR Isn't the Only Type of 2D Barcode

The most popular 2D barcode formats are QR code, DataMatrix, ScanLife EZcode, and Microsoft Tag (Tag).

2D Barcode Popular Formats: QR Code, DataMatrix, ScanLife EZcode, and Microsoft Tag

There are several key differences in these code formats. ScanLife EZcode and Microsoft Tag are proprietary formats only decodable by their tools, while QR and DataMatrix formats are open standard. (Additional format differences can be addressed in another blog post.)

A Google Trends analysis of these 2D barcodes shows "QR code" dominates by far from a search popularity perspective. QR has become a common term used to reference a 2D barcode (2D code, mobile tag, mobile barcode, etc.) even when codes are technically a different format. Even @MicrosoftTag uses the #QRcode hashtag on Twitter.

7. Tools to Generate and Read 2D Barcodes are Free

Tools are available for all major mobile phone handsets. To run a 2D barcode campaign you'll need to following:

  1. 2D barcode generator (Website service)
  2. 2D barcode reader (Mobile app)
  3. [Optional” 2D barcode management/tracking tool (Website service)


Different generators have varying features. Choose a generator based on the options for:

  • Code Format (i.e. QR, EZcode, Tag, etc.)
  • Stored Data (i.e. hyperlink, meCard, SMS, etc.)
  • Output (i.e. color, size, download file type, etc.)

QRstuff.com is a comprehensive QR generator providing a variety of stored content, color, size, and output options. ScanLife's generator creates their proprietary EZcode as well as QR and DataMatrix formats. Microsoft Tag only generates Tag.

Note: To generate a code on the ScanLife or Microsoft Tag sites, you'll first need to create an account. (Tag requires providing personal info like birth date, gender, etc.)


Microsoft Tag and ScanLife EZcode can only be decoded by their respective reader apps. Because of the open standard for QR codes, dozens of reader apps are available. (DataMatrix is usually supported on most QR readers.) Some mobile handsets come with a reader app pre-installed.

The following 2D barcode reader apps work on the majority of phones/handsets.

Reader AppCode FormatsDownload Link
(from your mobile phone)
RedLaser QR, UPC/EAN redlaser.com
BeeTagg Reader QR, DataMatrix, BeeTagg get.beetagg.com
AT&T Code Scanner QR, DataMatrix, UPC/EAN scan.mobi
ScanLife EZcode, QR, DataMatrix, UPC/EAN getscanlife.com
Microsoft Tag Tag gettag.mobi

RedLaser and AT&T Code Scanner also have geolocation features for local price comparison shopping.

8. Management Tools are Available to Track Scanning Analytics

URL-shortener and web analytics for 2D barcodes storing URL hyperlinks are a great start. For comprehensive scan tracking, you'll need to use a barcode generator tool that includes tracking analytics. (These tools are not independent.) Some management tools will merely track the number of scans while others provide detailed metrics like demographics, repeat scans, geolocation, and more. Collected analytics depends on the reader app used for scanning, so data results may vary.

Management tools are relatively inexpensive and sometimes free. Paid plans typically have a free trial with fees based on the number of scans.

2D Barcode Management & Tracking Tools:

9. 2D Barcode Content Should Provide Special Value for the Customer

It's work to scan a barcode, so users have higher expectations as to what content they will find. Reward the user with discounts, exclusive content, or useful tips relevant to the code's context. Consider scenarios that leverage smartphone features (email, SMS, phone call, video, map, apps, etc.) to save the user time.

For example, including a QR code on a business card that links to a meCard would be a lot easier than the user manually entering the contact record. In contrast, a QR code that links to a website homepage adds limited value.

Note: If you link to a web page, make sure that it's mobile-friendly.

10. Small or Complex QR Codes Can't be Scanned by Smartphones With Lesser Quality Cameras

Complex 2D barcodes (a lot going on, not very dense) are more challenging and time consuming to scan. In the case of QR codes, more stored content forces a larger code size. In general, it's best to minimize data stored in 2D barcodes. Always use a URL-shortener to shrink hyperlinks. (Add analytics tracking parameters before shortening the link.)

Warning: Small, complex QR codes are the biggest mistake currently being made by marketers. (Microsoft Tag and EZcode formats generally don't have this issue.) Smartphone cameras with resolution less than 4-megapixels can't scan a QR code smaller than about 1"x1". Moreover, without the auto-focus (AF) camera feature, a complex QR code will have the same scanning issue, even if the code is larger. The iPhone 3GS and Blackberry are popular handset examples that lack both of these camera features. Unscannable codes kill and delay the adoption rate for 2D barcode campaigns.

Tip: Always provide a back-up (i.e. hyperlink, SMS text message, etc.) option for users to retrieve info within the code. A back-up enables non-smartphone users to also participate.

11. Consumers Need Guidance to Scan 2D Barcodes

The variety of code types, readers, and different terminology is confusing to consumers. Nielsen Company estimates that only 40 percent of U.S. mobile devices are smartphones as of Q1 2011, growing to almost 50 percent by Q3 2011. That means there are a lot of smartphone rookies that barely know how to use their phone, much less distinguish differences in mobile barcode formats and reader apps. As long as 2D barcodes are a novelty concept, always include a brief step-by-step guide with the context of your code.

Logical steps:

  1. Get the reader app
  2. Scan the code with your mobile device
  3. (Action that happens upon scanning)

Tip: For the reader app download, include a URL link or SMS shortcut to expedite the process. This step is imperative when using proprietary Microsoft Tag or ScanLife EZcode formats since only one reader is capable of scanning their codes.

Steps two and three can be combined as a call-to-action. Example: "Scan to ____." (... watch a video, download our app, call customer support, etc.)

12. 2D Barcodes can be Customized Artistically

Artistic QR code by DelivrQR codes include an Error Correction Level (ECL) that enables "damaged" codes to still be scanned. The error level tolerance (set by the code generator) can be as high as 30%. As a result, creative license can be used to create designer QR codes from a variety of colors or materials (i.e. jelly beans, sand castles, product packaging, etc.) as long as there is adequate contrast to read the code.

When it comes to advanced QR code graphic design, it's harder than it looks. If you want to get fancy, I recommend connecting with QR art experts at QRarts.com or Delivr.com.

Microsoft Tag also allows for artistic codes. Their custom tag tool allows users to generate art from codes or even overlay codes on top of photographs.


Tip: Some artistic design is fun and good to see; however, don't go overboard. As long as 2D barcodes are novelty, it's important that users easily recognize a scannable code from a distance.

13. Testing Scannability is Imperative.

Before you mass print or distribute barcodes be sure to test for scannability. Testing factors:

  • Smartphone cameras (resolution/auto-focus)
  • Reader apps
  • Scan context (i.e. lighting, shadows, surfaces)
  • Scan distance
  • Scan timing

14. Seek Expertise to Ensure Successful Campaigns

To ensure campaign success, consider consulting with a mobile barcode marketing expert, especially if it's your first time running a mobile barcode campaign. Technology, trends, and tools in this arena are rapidly changing. A few hours of expert consulting can bring your team up to speed, help optimize campaigns for success, and avoid unnecessary embarrassment for poor implementation.

Expertise goes beyond consultants: Talk to your web analytics guru and learn all you can about the mobile users currently accessing your website. Seek out mobile marketing industry statistics regarding popular devices and demographics to appropriately target your audience. (Compete, ScanLife, and eMarketer provide regular useful reports.) Follow the #QRcode Twitter hashtag or subscribe to "QR Code News & Mobile Trends" (Paper.li) for the latest news and case studies.

Finally, you can download Angie's QR Code Best Practices Checklist & Campaign Worksheet to help plan and manage your campaigns.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Deal or not to Deal - are local Daily Deal sites right for your brand?

Ever wondered if it made sense to add Groupon or Living Social to your marketing mix? Daily deals are great way to leverage two current trends, hyper-localism and budget consciousness. Many companies have participated in these deals, from Gap and Nordstrom Rack to your local restaurant or gym. How do you decide if it's for your brand? Well, like any marketing/media vehicle, there are a number of questions you can ask. Here are a couple simple ones:

Does this vehicle help me meet my marketing goals?
How targeted is it?
Is the vehicle/environment consistent with my brand?
What deal should I offer?
What's the ROI?
Which Daily Deal platform to select?

Here's some food for thought.

Marketing Goals
- Daily deals are a great way to build awareness, drive traffic and trial - especially helpful if you have low awareness and penetration into your key demographic.

How targeted is it?
- Because only people who are interested buy, it is highly targeted. This is a great way to introduce your products or services to new users since it's low risk for them. You might be subsidizing some of your current customers, but chances are, you'll also be able to bring back lapsed or occasional users are well. And since it's a social tool, your fans can share with the deals with their friends and bring in new users.

Is it a good brand fit?
- The great news for marketers, especially those who shy away from coupons, is that Groupon and Living Social and some of the newer sites including Rue La La (upscale deals including luxury brands such as Cartier and Hermes), Tippr and even Facebook are a great milieu for most brands. They are relevant, social, and hip.

What deal should I offer?
- It depends on your target audience and marketing goals. Among adults online who visit Coupons/Rewards websites, nearly half are interested in gardening, while roughly one-third are interested in home repair/renovation, religious involvement and landscaping. Other standouts include knitting/sewing (Coupons/Rewards site visitors are 19% more likely than the average adult Internet user to be interested) and gourmet cooking (18% more likely). (Source: Nielsen)

What's the ROI
- Most offers are around 50% off or more off the regular price. The daily deal platform normally takes 50% of the deal. That leaves you with a slim 25% margin. The best way to look at the ROI is to compare the cost per conversion versus other vehicles you use to see if it makes sense.

- Make sure you have your operational house in order. You don't want to invite new guests and have them be disappointed by out-of-stocks, customer service, cleanliness or other issues.
- If there's seasonality inherent in your business, you should also take that into consideration

Which daily deal platform to select?
- Here's some great info from Nielsen comparing the Living Social to Groupon profiles.
  • Visitors to Groupon and Living Social are similar in that nearly two-thirds are female and more likely than the average U.S. Internet user to be affluent. Living Social’s visitors trend slightly more affluent and more educated than Groupon’s with 46 percent having a Bachelor’s or Post-Graduate degree, compared to 39 percent for Groupon (the national average for Internet users is 25%). Visitors to Living Social are also 49 percent more likely than the average American online to make $150,000 or more, while Groupon’s visitors are 30 percent more likely.
  • Although the audiences to both sites share a similar gender and socioeconomic split, there are notable differences in the age and geographic location of their U.S. visitors. Groupon has a higher concentration of visitors aged 35-64 (57 percent compared to 51 percent for Living Social), with the Internet average being 48 percent. Living Social has a higher concentration of younger visitors with 21-34 year olds making up 33 percent of their audience compared to 25 percent for Groupon and 21 percent across the entire web.
  • While both sites offer deals in many cities across the country, Groupon is most likely to have visitors from the Northeast while Living Social has a high concentration of visitors in the South and Pacific regions.
Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought before you decide to plunge into the world of daily deals.

Have you tried any of these platforms? If so, share your story or advice!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A novel approach - pop up bookstore

On the ground floor of a townhouse at 547 Hudson Street, in Manhattan's West Village , there is a book store that only sells one book: Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days With the Phoenix Mars Mission.

Imagine, walking into a bookstore and seeing over 3000 copies of one book. You'd either find it really humourous and want to purchase the book or for the more curmudgeon types, be really annoyed. The idea was the brainchild of the 32 year-old first time author Andrew Kessler from Brooklyn, New York who wrote Martian Summer. Looking for an idea that would generate publicity about the book on a small budget, Kessler tapped friends and colleagues until he found a generous landlord who was willing to support the arts. Normally rents in this area go for over $1000 a square foot.

While pop-up stores aren't new, this is a fun spin that's helped raise the author's profile and generate some sales. The store is open for just a month (April 12- May 15) and to date Andrew has sold over 500 copies.

Any fun pop-up store experiences you can share?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Guerrilla-style campaigns - Inspiration #1

Let me inspire you!

There are so many great examples of how brand managers around the world are experimenting with different media and venues to build brand awareness, drive revenue and traffic. Many of these campaigns use social media, making it interactive with users who then take the idea viral by involving friends on social networks.

I'll post the top ten campaigns that I've found. Some of these require big budgets, but others are very guerrilla and are more an investment of time and creativity.

For many of you who stay up to date on the latest in digital marketing some of these campaigns will likely be familiar. For others, I'm hoping this will be a discovery.
And please, feel free to add your comments or share your favourite campaigns so I can feature them!


Volkswagen - The Fun Theory, Stockholm Sweden

The Objective:
  • Get more people to drive environmentally friendly cars by making it fun
  • Establish Volkswagon as an environmentally responsible leader in car manufacturing
  • Create awareness and interest in Volkswagen's "BlueAction Technology" which reduces environmental impact without compromising the car's performance.
The Insight:
  • It's easier to change behavior if you make it fun
The Idea:
  • The idea was to "test" the Fun Theory - that you could change human behavior by making things fun, by creating three experiments, “The Piano Stairs,” “World’s Deepest Bin,” and “The Bottle Bank Arcade.” All three experiments were filmed and released on YouTube; you could also go to funtheory.com to learn more about BlueMotion Technologies.
  • Volkswagen also launched The Fun Theory Award, which allowed people to compete with their own ideas. Submissions were judged on how the idea could in a fun way change people's behavior and make a positive impact.
The Results:

  • “The Fun Theory” became a global topic, with articles appearing in all the major Swedish newspapers and other major media outlets throughout the world. It became the most viral campaign in the world with over 20 million views on YouTube, 115,000 sharings on Facebook, over 20,000 Tweets, and 33,000 blogs have written about it worldwide. The Fun Theory website received over 1.7 million visitors, 10,000 fans on Facebook, and 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. The Fun Theory contest received 700 user-generated initiatives from 35 different countries.
  • As a result, Volkswagen has become the most popular eco car in Sweden, selling 4% more green cars than they sold the year before, and exceeded their sales target by 50%.
The Work:

Bottle Bank Arcade

Piano Stairs

The World's Deepest Bin

The Fun Theory Award Winner - The Speed Camera Lottery

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How Converse is succeeding in Social Media by being relevant, useful and making a human connection

It’s Prom season. The stretch limos were out last night. One stopped outside our restaurant and unloaded maybe ten young women, slightly tottering on unfamiliar heels, expectant fresh faces adorned with brightly coloured eyes and lips. Following closely behind were teenage boys decked in tuxes. I noticed that one lad in particular had matched his tux with a pair of Converse sneakers. Very fun – made me think of John Lennon and the other music icons that embraced this brand helping give it its cult status. The humble canvas sneaker that says you’re a touch subversive, a little bit hip and a tad different from everyone else in a non-elitist way.

Converse continues to nurture its connection with the indie/alternative music scene with their very talented and innovative CMO Geoff Cottrill at the helm. (I worked with Geoff when he led the Starbucks Entertainment group – he ran around in, guess what, a pair of Converse). The brand was bought by Nike in 2003 for $350 million, a time when the brand had lost its way in the 80’s and 90’s and held less than 3% of the market. Today its sales are well over $2 billion and the brand has over 16 million Facebook fans. (In comparison, Nike has 7 million fans and Pepsi less than 4 million). All this on a pretty slim marketing budget, according to Geoff.

Geoff attributes the more recent success of the brand to staying authentic to its roots and by leveraging social media to cultivate the passion of its fan base – tapping into the imagination of the brand’s core customer base, turning them into brand evangelists. He does this by enabling the brand to be relevant and generous, a zeitgeist if you will, “a curator of sorts for new music, art and fun”. They've become a real distribution platform to help indie musicians get their music out, through ongoing initiatives including “Converse Rubber Tracks” - a new state-of-the-art recording studio launching this summer in Brooklyn where artists can record at no cost. These types of gems make new music a real discovery for the Converse customer and build huge brand affinity in the Indie/Alt music world.

So getting back to the Prom. One of the fun things that Converse does is trend topics on the internet and build conversations around them. A timely theme they picked up on was “How to ask for a date to the Prom”. They created a video/promo around this question “The Ask-Er-Out-Er” and asked folks in their Facebook community to list three things that they liked or had in common with their dream date. They picked a couple posts and created personalized videos meant to help that person ask the guy or girl for a date to the prom. You can check it out here.

A great example of why the Converse brand is so successful in nurturing its following. While you can buy Ready to Wear or create your own Converse Prom sneakers, the “Ask-Er-Outer-Er” was more about building an emotional connection with teens rather than selling stuff. I love this quote from Geoff from an interview on Mashable about the opportunity for brands to act more like human beings in order to make a real connection.

Social media itself is a lot of hype, except for the potential for companies to act more like human beings and be forced into thinking about marketing and message control in a different (or now obsolete) way. But social media has the potential to mature into a powerful hybrid of traditional marketing techniques and community engagement, especially if that community becomes your brand advocates. Which is why we focus on a couple of core marketing truths via social –- be relevant, make a connection, be useful, etc.

So what stories can you tell about you and your pair of sneakers?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Social Dining - two new reasons why you never have to eat alone

Social dining is a new innovation in social networking– it takes online relationships offline, over a meal. I love this idea. It’s a great way to meet new people if you’ve moved to a new city or simply wish to expand your social or professional network. It’s also a fun way to try new restaurants.

Here are two different models on the cutting edge

Grubwithus: Launched in 2010, the core philosophy at Grubwithus is that Social Dining can build friendships over great meals. Think OpenTable meets Groupon, but instead of booking your own table, you're booking an individual seat at a table with other social diners at a fixed price & menu. You'll eat good food, meet new friends, and instantly know more people. Grubwithus was started in Chicago by two post-college friends who have tried their hand at various start-ups.

Today it was announced in Tech Crunch that a group of prominent early-stage investors have decided they’d love to back Grubwithus. The service, which launched out of Y Combinator last year, has just raised a $1.6 million round. Who’s at the funding table? Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, NEA, SV Angel, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Vivi Nevo, Yuri Milner, Felix Shpilman, Maynard Webb, Matt Cutts, Elad Gil, Paul Buchheit, Alexis Ohanian, Start Fund, and Y Combinator.

Grubwithus is currently operating in Chicago, New York, San Fran, D.C. and L.A.

The other Social Dining site is called Let’sLunch which was launched in January of this year. Its focus is much more about social business networking versus making friends and acquaintances. They have a built-in rating system for who you are as a key influencer based on peer ratings. As users improve their level, they gain more access to more connected people and opportunities. You pick the time and restaurant so it’s much more about the forming business connections (think match.com for business networking) than about enjoying a meal or making friends.

Have you tried any of these social dining sites? Are you game?

If you’re in Seattle you register here to be notified when Grubwithus Seattle is up and running.