GET SCANNED - Ashley Heather - dotbox By Ashley Heather Media Biz Bloggers September 21, 2011 2-D Bar Codes are creating new opportunities to spread awareness of your brand and products—and to measurably improve the shopping experience you offer. That's just the beginning. Make your magazine ads work harder for you. Place codes in traditional media, in your store, and in TV commercials or videos to offer your customer a fuller, deeper, richer experience. Traditional media is difficult to measure. 2-D barcodes, however, put you in the know about your customer's behavior. Every time someone scans you, you'll be able to track everything they do, allowing you to run trials to assess relative effectiveness of campaigns, and to just generally operate smarter. Using codes at every stage in the shopping funnel—from when you first stimulate awareness, then build interest in your offerings and cultivate desire until they act and even after—makes you more effective. Stage 1 – Awareness They don't know who you are or even that you exist. You'll first need to get their attention. Invite them to a quick scan. Promise them something they can't refuse. Good value offers can be very effective, as Groupon and other Daily Dealy sites have shown us, even if the customer hasn't ever even considered buying your product before. Or it could be a sweepstakes for a magical prize. Offer a comparison of all the alternatives in the category, particularly as regards something of immediate concern to them, like how each of these choices will affect their health or the environment. Share super fun and lively creative UGC from creative people just like them. Whatever your pitch, the really hard part is getting them to do it. Our suggestion: make it fun and easy. Once they've accepted your invitation and you've succeeded in charming them, it's smart to have something ready to take them even further along, from Awareness to Interest. Stage 2 – Interest They know you now, or they think they do. They're still tentative, just testing the waters. But they are curious, and they're checking you out, willing to give you a chance. There's a good chance they'll scan your 2-D bar code. They might even be in your store at this point, handling the goods in person and trying them on for size. Providing relevant context about the merchandise now is likely to have powerful results. If it's an item of clothing, show them images of other people like them wearing it, and all the different looks it can fit into. It's also very exciting to offer them ratings and reviews, just with a simple code scan. They're trying to determine how they feel about the item. They want to know if it really works. They want to know what other people think, especially their friends. And it's so easy. You can also use 2-D bar codes to offer price comparisons of your merchandise with other retailers'. Contests soliciting content (UGC) from your customers allow them to deepen the relationship with you on their terms. Or a sweepstakes—simply stick a pixilated nugget just above the item, with the words, "Win this now." You'll be surprised how many hits you can get. These are all great ways to learn about potential customers who up until now have all been just members of the silent majority. Step 3 – Desire Timing is everything. Once the customer is already interested in you, a 2-D bar code can be especially tantalizing. They're spending time getting to know your products from many different angles. In classic salesmanship, it's time to remove the barriers and sweeten the deal. The beauty of the code is you can dangle it before them right there and then, putting the power into their hands. It's easy and it's non-committal. Even better, a limited-time offer makes it a NOW proposition. Better still, make the scan open up into a real-time inventory counter—with only one left, the message is clear, and the NEED. A salesman might try the tactic, but breaking that personal distance isn't easy. The code puts the consumer in charge. That's a game she feels very comfortable playing. Step 4 – Action Now is the time to make it painfully easy to take the leap. Convenience and the smoothness work. It's a time when shoppers can get easily flustered. Many have an inherent sense of mistrust walking into a pressure situation. What makes the code so perfect is that it promises a very controlled environment. You don't have to wait in line. You can transact right there through your smart phone. (How many times have you aborted a purchase simply because you were too impatient?) Having the code right there takes away all the excuses. It's so easy that it becomes a given, "But it now!" And it's not just a driver of immediate sales. 2-D Bar Codes are perfect when someone wants to put something on their wish list or registry, or just bookmark the item for further reference. Bookmarking the world around us is becoming more and more the way we consume. In many cases, it might even be considered the first stage of purchase, as we limit our choices down to a limited set to decide at a later time and purchase online. Step 5 – Follow Up Post-Transaction Hey, you just won a customer. This is no time to drop the ball. Instead, welcome them into the family with something beautiful, encouraging, rewarding or useful. Use a 2-D bar code on their receipt or inside the packaging to launch something they really want right now and you stand a chance of winning their heart forever. Offer them the chance to review your product in text or video. Likely, they even want to tell their friends. Give them the chance to share. Everyone will know, and appreciate your effort. Best of all, this UGC cycles back to the beginning of the funnel, inducing newcomers to believe in you. Another great natural opportunity is to place your code on a product for easy, one click re-orders. Sometimes it is just as easy as that. These are just a few of the many great opportunities to use 2-D barcodes to bring your products alive at every customer touchpoint and every stage of the shopping funnel. It's something your fans will appreciate. It's something those new to you will notice. And in the end, it will serve your bottom line. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free tactical overview of how barcodes can work for your unique business. dotbox CEO Ashley Heather is one of the pioneers at the intersection of ecommerce, social interaction and location-aware services. His companies include Musikube and Entertainment Media Works, which brought us StarStyle, StyleLogue and Plinking—in 2004, among the first Social Commerce websites. In his native London, he was the lead digital consultant at Impact Plus and an executive at Ford Motor Company. He is a frequent speaker at media industry events, including iBreakfast, CTIA Wireless, The Digital Coast Roundtable, MoMeMo, Social Media Week and is an Associate Member of IADAS. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read all Ashley's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at dotbox. Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com Follow our Twitter updates @MediaBizBlogger The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.