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Bridge Your Print, Online Marketing with Tag Technology

Penny SchneckPenny Schneck
JUST WHEN YOU'VE MASTERED typing on that tiny keypad on your phone, there is a new technology that enables you to snap and click directly to a Web site. A tag is a new kind of bar code that connects print and the Web in order to provide information, entertainment and interactive experiences. They are free to create and use, and can be easily printed on your ads, posters, billboards, product packaging, cards, Facebook pages, even clothing. Your customers scan a tag with a free tag reader application on their smart phones, and it will automatically link to a web page; add a contact to their address book; or display a message. There is no need to launch a browser and type a long Web site address.
     While bar codes have been around for a while, these tags open up new possibilities for interacting and engaging your customers because of the broad adoption of smart phones among the general population. A smart phone has a camera, Web browser and is capable of downloading an application. Some sample smart phones include the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. According to Tech Crunchies, at the end of the last quarter, 21% of mobile phone users in the U.S. had a smart phone. In just a few more quarters, that number is projected to more than double to 49%!
     Currently, there are two types of tags - Quick Response (QR) Tags and Microsoft Tags.
QR TagQR Tag
     A QR tag is a matrix barcode consisting of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. Today, thanks to the high density of smart phone users in Asia and Europe, QR tags are frequently used in a broad range of marketing programs including billboards and storefront decals. The Microsoft Tag, launched in 2009, uses color barcodes in a diamond pattern They produce well in small, adaptable sizes so they are particularly well-suited for print ads in magazines and newspapers. Both applications are free to use.
     While technical folks can debate Microsoft Tag vs. QR Tag, this column focuses on why you should keep these applications on your radar as a business manager and marketer.
     As a marketer, tags make your printed ads immediately actionable. Readers can learn more about your product or services and share the information with friends or co-workers. They can link to a landing page with videos, product information or special offers. They also can instantly add someone to an address book or even dial a phone number. Similar to Web site analytics, you can access analytics on who is downloading your tags and the actions they take including whether they convert to a customer. This creates a great way to evaluate which ads generate interaction and sales.
Microsoft TagMicrosoft Tag
     Tags are quickly popping up throughout our industry. At the recent High Point Market, the Showplace building used QR tags on the front doors and in select showrooms. Buyers could scan the tags on products as they shopped, capturing images and information on products they liked. Showplace plans to roll the technology out throughout the building for the April 2011 show. Eric Burg, president and CEO of tradeshow company Applerock and a consultant to Showplace, said that buyers who use the QR tag "will be able to collect a great deal of information quickly; share that information with other members of their merchandising teams if necessary; and contact salespeople with their order or requests for further details about an item vie an email."
     In September, Simmons Bedding Company launched a program with JC Penney stores. The company put Microsoft tags on its Beautyrest product line displays. Consumers who scan the tags with their phone's Web browser are immediately linked to a landing page with additional product information, images and videos. "Consumer engagement happens within the last five feet of the bed," said Tim Oakhill, Simmons executive vice president of marketing. "QR tags bring point-ofsale to life, educating and engaging the consumers at the point where purchase decisions are made."
     Simmons has even been using the tags in its Furniture/ Today ads. Scan the tag and there is a quick link to a unique Web page with details about how Simmons is using the technology to creative a more interactive shopping experience.
     Synqware, a technology company in the gift and decorative accessories market, is launching its QRSYNQ application at the GHTA and GSMA conferences this November. Vendors will be able to generate their own unique QR codes using the QRSYNQ dashboard. The tags can be placed at the bottom of their print ads or posted at trade show booths. Each code will embed information regarding the vendor and, optionally, a specific promotion. The application will be a free download for buyers and attendees, and users will be able to scan a code on a showroom or in an ad. After viewing the company information and promotion, the buyer will be able to select an "interest level."
     The buyer can store vendor information; swap contact information with the vendor; or request a contact. Vendors using QRSYNQ will be able to export buyer contact information to their contact management system and send promotions to buyers who have bookmarked them. "QR codes take the immediacy that we've come to expect from a Web experience and apply it to real life. Simply put - QR codes make the real world clickable!" said Brett Goldberg, chief executive officer, Synqware.
     There are lots of free tag generators available online. Google "QR tag" and/or "Microsoft Tag" for more information and case studies. Then create your own tag, download a free reader for your mobile device and decide whether you like it or not.

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