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Tag Archives: Mobile phone

Are Businesses Crossing Lines by Tracking Employees?

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Expert Cites Benefits & Ways to Ease Privacy Concerns

Nearly 10 years after real-time package- and people-tracking went viral with the advent of GPS-enabled cell phones, small businesses face two big concerns.

“One is expense. Small businesses, especially those still recovering from the worst recession in modern history, can’t always afford to provide their employees with GPS-equipped smart phones,” notes location-based services specialist George Karonis, founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc., provider of Mobile Phone Locate tracking service,  (www.mobilephonelocate.com).

“The second issue is privacy. People generally don’t want their employer to be a ‘big brother’ boss who can track their every move. It’s not because they’re doing something they shouldn’t, but because it invades their space, and the information could be misinterpreted or misused.”

But employee tracking has plenty of obvious benefits to small business owners:

• Provide baseline information. It gives businesses solid data to analyze for initiatives such as improving efficiency. Businesses with lots of workers in the field making deliveries or service calls can optimize routes and schedules.

• Improve customer service and satisfaction. Tracking helps a business tell people waiting somewhere for a delivery or service exactly where their package or service-person is and how long the wait will be.

• Improve response times. On-site coordinators can re-route workers in the field to respond to unscheduled calls in the most efficient way possible.

• Reduce costs. The greater efficiency provided by tracking helps lower costs by reducing both downtime and overtime.

So how can businesses circumvent affordability and employee privacy concerns?

One way is to accomplish both is to use a service that doesn’t involve extra equipment, including software, or a contract, Karonis says.

“If you’re not loading apps or software onto someone’s personal phone, it’s less intrusive for the employee and he or she will be more willing to allow use of their own phone. There’s also no added drain on the battery, because there’s no app constantly running in the background, and no hitch-hiking on their data plan or incurring a data charge,” he says.

“If you make it non-intrusive employees won’t tend to feel that you’re invading their privacy.”

Using a service that charges per location, with no requirement for a time-specific contract, is also more cost-efficient for the business, Karonis says.

“For the small business that’s merely seeking to improve efficiency and customer service, constant tracking isn’t necessary. That’s more appropriate in a situation where employers have large number of people constantly in the field, for instance, UPS. Or, employers who feel the need to monitor unproductive employees,” he says.

There’s a growing backlash as the public is subjected to more and more stalking – from cameras mounted at traffic lights to social networking sites recording shopping habits and topics of conversation, Karonis notes.

“We’ve reached a crossroads where we need to find a balance between surveillance that provides legitimate business advantages and surveillance that invades people’s privacy,” he says.

“It really is possible to strike that balance and, in a small business that thrives on trust, mutual respect and fully invested employees, it’s essential.”

About George Karonis

George Karonis has a background in security and surveillance, and has specialized in location services since 2005. A self-professed computer geek, one of his chief concerns is balancing the usefulness of tracking with the protection of individuals’ privacy. He is founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc.

 

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Are Businesses Crossing Lines by Tracking Employees?

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Nearly 10 years after real-time package- and people-tracking went viral with the advent of GPS-enabled cell phones, small businesses face two big concerns.

“One is expense. Small businesses, especially those still recovering from the worst recession in modern history, can’t always afford to provide their employees with GPS-equipped smart phones,” notes location-based services specialist George Karonis, founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc., provider of Mobile Phone Locate tracking service,  (www.mobilephonelocate.com).

“The second issue is privacy. People generally don’t want their employer to be a ‘big brother’ boss who can track their every move. It’s not because they’re doing something they shouldn’t, but because it invades their space, and the information could be misinterpreted or misused.”

But employee tracking has plenty of obvious benefits to small business owners:

• Provide baseline information. It gives businesses solid data to analyze for initiatives such as improving efficiency. Businesses with lots of workers in the field making deliveries or service calls can optimize routes and schedules.

• Improve customer service and satisfaction. Tracking helps a business tell people waiting somewhere for a delivery or service exactly where their package or service-person is and how long the wait will be.

• Improve response times. On-site coordinators can re-route workers in the field to respond to unscheduled calls in the most efficient way possible.

• Reduce costs. The greater efficiency provided by tracking helps lower costs by reducing both downtime and overtime.

So how can businesses circumvent affordability and employee privacy concerns?

One way is to accomplish both is to use a service that doesn’t involve extra equipment, including software, or a contract, Karonis says.

“If you’re not loading apps or software onto someone’s personal phone, it’s less intrusive for the employee and he or she will be more willing to allow use of their own phone. There’s also no added drain on the battery, because there’s no app constantly running in the background, and no hitch-hiking on their data plan or incurring a data charge,” he says.

“If you make it non-intrusive employees won’t tend to feel that you’re invading their privacy.”

Using a service that charges per location, with no requirement for a time-specific contract, is also more cost-efficient for the business, Karonis says.
“For the small business that’s merely seeking to improve efficiency and customer service, constant tracking isn’t necessary. That’s more appropriate in a situation where employers have large number of people constantly in the field, for instance, UPS. Or, employers who feel the need to monitor unproductive employees,” he says.

There’s a growing backlash as the public is subjected to more and more stalking – from cameras mounted at traffic lights to social networking sites recording shopping habits and topics of conversation, Karonis notes.

“We’ve reached a crossroads where we need to find a balance between surveillance that provides legitimate business advantages and surveillance that invades people’s privacy,” he says.

“It really is possible to strike that balance and, in a small business that thrives on trust, mutual respect and fully invested employees, it’s essential.”

About George Karonis

George Karonis has a background in security and surveillance, and has specialized in location services since 2005. A self-professed computer geek, one of his chief concerns is balancing the usefulness of tracking with the protection of individuals’ privacy. He is founder and CEO of LiveViewGPS, Inc.

 

 

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Carry your Business Tools with You

There is no doubt that healthy communication is one of the major tenants off good business. Supplying your employees with a company mobile phone is the ideal way to give them the means to contact whoever they need to quickly and appropriately. Company mobile phones supplied to employees makes employees realise it is inappropriate to use their own phones during business hours for personal reasons unless there is an emergency. Fitting company mobile phones into the workplace may be more difficult than first envisioned however. For one, mobile phones often disturb meetings to the extent that some employees are told to leave their mobiles at their desks during this time. Also, using a company phone while driving is not advised practice as this is considered unsafe.

Successfully Integrating Mobile Phones in the Workplace

HR policy on mobile phone use of employees is a useful place to start looking for learning how company mobile phone use can be a mostly positive and not detrimental, practice. Poor mobile phone practices can lead to disrupting behaviour in the workplace and even possibly raise legal issues. For this reason, try to bring in the help of your managers and legal advisory connections as well as your HR staff when formulating a policy. Getting help from IT staff can also help if the mobiles you supply need to fit in with email servers, have use of particular built-in apps or have particular calling functions.

Making Up a General Mobile Phone Use Policy

Having employees annoy others in meetings with mobile phones can be helped by using the vibrate signal when receiving a call or message instead of a loud ringtone. Better than that, ask staff to leave the room if they receive an important call or need to make an important text. Or, you might consider telling staff to just leave their mobiles at their desks during business meetings. Remember that leaving voicemails can be an effective way to communicate with a mobile. It lets someone state a succinct message about the situation and lets others have time to hear that message and think on it before replying.

When Employees Need to Use their Mobiles

Encourage your workers to speak in low tones when they are using a mobile, or to move to a designated area where they can talk freely like a lobby, call area or cafeteria. Communication on mobile phones, especially if clients are involved, should always be professional. It may be tempting to communicate less formally over a mobile instead of by letter, email or landline but getting into this habit is not a good idea. Remember that the mobile phones should be used with courtesy and respect with appropriate behavioural boundaries at all times.

Helping Employees Carry around their Mobiles

There are more efficient ways to carry around a mobile phone than just in the pocket. Your company can produce colourful lanyards that have a phone holder clip on the end of them which employees wear around their neck. This only works for phones that have a bar, however. It includes a string loop which forms a phone attachment. Or, you may like to use a clipper which works for Blackberries and iPhones but not flip phones. These lanyards are very suitable for employees on the move or on the job and advertise the employee’s status at the same time. Mobile phones can also be carried in bum bags worn around the waist. Consider supplying your mobile phones with suitable protective cases so that they last longer.

Other Mobile Phone Issues at Work

State certain times when employees are allowed to use their personal mobile phones and ban any use outside of these time zones, apart from for emergency calls. If employees are using personal devices for business reasons they should be reimbursed this money. Getting employees to highlight all work related calls on a bill could be an option, but of course it may be easier simply to supply work phones to everyone and state that all work-related activity must be done on these phones alone. If work phones are supplied, these should be turned off by a secure service if they are lost or stolen. Phones that come with GPS mean that employees can be tracked, perhaps out of hours. Ask employees to turn off work phones during out of hours if they do not want this to happen.

To find out about company lanyards go online for a quick and easy design and manufacturing process that will ship lanyards to you that have been quality checked.

 

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Why Flash and Animated Websites Can Be Bad for Business

by Chris Bolton

Click to View Animated Gif

I love special effects, video games, and Sci-Fi movies. But I can’t stand a slow-loading animated website when I’m trying to accomplish a purpose. If I’m trying to get some information or buy a product, I want the shortest distance between my mouse and my goal. This is why Flash websites can sometimes do more damage than good. Sure, you’ve got a goldfish swimming behind the article you’re trying to read and fireworks following every move of the cursor–that’s a nifty trick–but I can’t read anything on the site, and it takes forever for all the graphics to load.

Most people who work in the web-world know that Adobe Flash-based websites have numerous issues. They don’t work on manymobile devices; they load slow; they can’t be read by Google (which means they get poor search engine ranking).

That being said, what if there was a solution that worked better than Flash–something that loaded faster and played nice with Google? Would we all start building websites that snow, sparkle, flip upside down, and make burps when we click buttons?

Well, there are alternatives to Flash these days. HTML5 is the most promising, and as it is more widely adopted, you will see more websites with HTML5 animation. But this is where I think we need to pause . . .

Just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should run out and start dousing our sites in animated menus, dancing puppies, and scrolling banners.

Here are 5 reasons I think you should think twice before creating a website that relies heavily on any kind of animated effects.

1. Shiny/Flashy/Moving Things are Distracting

Things that blink, buzz, and whir serve a good purpose. There is a reason why we have traffic signs that blink, sirens that scream, and alarm clocks that buzz. These things are designed to tear our attention away from whatever we were trying to do in the first place and PAY ATTENTION. This is never a pleasant experience. Ambulance sirens scare the hell out of me, but I’m generally forgiving because they are serving a public good. If your website starts screaming, talking, spinning, or blinking, it might just scare the hell out of me as well. But my reaction will not be so forgiving. In fact I will never go to your website again.

2. Slow Load Time

Even if you have super-fast internet, your fans and customers may not. You’ve got about 2 seconds to engage your audience before they click onto the next thing. Loading excess animations and video will slow down your site load time. Also, putting a video or song on your website is great, but don’t make it auto-play. If your visitor wants to watch or listen, they will push play and they will usually wait a reasonable about of time for it to load. But most users like to choose whether to watch a video or not.

3. Animations Often Force an Experience

The internet is full of options. People like options. If a fancy animation loads when you land on a website, you are forced to watch it before you can go on to what you were trying to accomplish. The perfect example of this is a “splash page.” This is a page that loads prior to landing on a homepage and usually features some kind of animation or ad. Now if I’m trying to locate a concert date, buy your eBook, or perform any other transaction on your site, a splash page serves a s a barrier between your site and my intended action. If I’m on a mobile phone it could break your website completely.

4. Inconsistent Mobile and Tablet Experiences

More and more people are using phones and tablets to access the internet and leaving their desktops to gather dust. Creating animations that work well on a big screen and a tiny phone screen is a tough challenge and it often fails. The best mobile experience, in my opinion, is a simple one. I’m usually in transit when I use my phone and I want my information fast. Ask yourself what you want people to do on your website and make that super easy to do on any device.

5. Search Ranking

Search engines, like Google, are great at reading text. They are not-so-great at reading images and animations. Sure, HTML5 will be easier for Google to handle then flash, but because of the potential for keyword stuffing and hidden text, words that are embedded in images will probably not be given the same weight as text on the page.

All this being said, I love special effects and animation and there are some awesome interactive websites that are exceptions to the rule because they are designed as a novelty or a multimedia experience. But if you’re trying to grow your fan base and readership and sell some merchandise, you don’t need special effects. You just need a great-looking website that is easy to use.

 

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Use the Latest Marketing Techniques

More and more businesses are moving online, but that doesn’t mean that they do their marketing online.  Banner advertisements and even email marketing are quite difficult to get results from, as more and more Internet users are filtering their email to ignore marketing messages, and becoming “ad blind”. Flashy banners, cunningly worded slogans, and even in-text links are easily ignored.

Modern marketers are finding better results from slightly more traditional communication methods such as voice broadcasting and SMS marketing.

How does SMS Marketing Work?

SMS marketing is a form of opt-in marketing where you send text messages to people that have indicated an interest in your product.  This sort of marketing works well for local businesses and for things where location isn’t an issue, such as pay-per-view sporting events.  Imagine you run a pizza shop.  You could build an SMS marketing database by asking people to text their favourite topping to a certain number in order to have a chance at winning a free pizza. Once you have that list, you can send text messages to those people to inform them of new special offers.  If you time your text message correctly, you could catch people as they’re coming out of work, hungry. They may well see your message and decide to pick up a pizza on the way home.

Voice Broadcasting, A Modern Twist

Voice broadcasting is a slightly more interactive feeling version of SMS marketing.  With voice broadcasting, you record a short marketing message, and can send it out to a list of phone numbers.  At the end of the message, if a live person has picked up the phone they can choose to be forwarded to your contact centre.  If it was an answer-phone that picked up the call, then the software will leave your contact details, so that the person that eventually hears the message will be able to call you if they’re interested.

Voice broadcasting allows you to deliver a much more detailed message than you could fit into a single SMS, however some people find voice messages more intrusive that simple SMS messages, so it’s best to experiment with different techniques to see what your customers respond best to.

Keeping People on Your List

Once you have built an opt-in marketing list, it’s important that you look after it, and nurture it carefully.  One way to instantly lose all of the goodwill you’ve built up would be to sell the list on to another company.

Resist the urge to send out lots of marketing messages in a short period of time.  Limit your messages to, at most, one a week.  Make sure that each message provides new information, and offers something to the customer – whether that’s notice of a special offer, or an exclusive discount.  If you don’t have anything to offer, don’t send a message.  Remember that your customer’s time is important to them, they won’t appreciate it if you waste it, and if you annoy them too many times, they may unsubscribe from your messages.

This post was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Collstream the voice broadcasting and SMS marketing experts. Photo: Christiano Betta

 

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I Turned 58 Years Old Today, and I Miss my Land Line

Most of the times I want to strangle Zuckerberg for inventing the damn FaceBook, but around birthday time it can be kind of humbling.  You get to see how many of your old friends have way too much time on their hands during working hours to surf the web and post sincere birthday wishes.  Don’t get me wrong, FaceBook and LinkedIn have brought me back in touch with dozens of great old friends and memories.  Many of those friends are spending quality “real world” time with us now as a result of the social reunion.  Being married a couple of times before, I have nieces and nephews from about 5 different families, and dearly love being able to ping back and forth and keep in touch.

You also get to see how many marketers have you on their FB lists and think you are going to somehow be gratified to get birthday salutations from people you have never heard of.  Some are probably sincere, and others are just good natured folks looking to extend their good Social Media karma, but I suspect that yet others have their bots sending out cut and paste boilerplate much in the same manner of the LinkedIn technical support chat line.

Thankfully I am old enough to have a few friends who think that the FaceBook birthday one-liner is still not a substitute for an actual greeting.  I must admit that the number of cards (thank God) goes down in direct proportion to your age.  In the spirit of going Green and due to my absolute disdain of Hallmark and its manufactured holidays, I prefer to either print my own cards (for other people,  I’m not Howard Hughes printing cards for myself) or send e-cards.  All this media is overwhelming, and if not impersonal, a bit abstract.  It’s kind of like learning to drive via a video game.  There is no danger on-line, no direct contact, you can shoot at the bad guys and they all fall.  Even if they kill you, you don’t bleed.  That’s all good and well, I guess, but after all I did just turn 58.

I have been blessed with a loving wife (well 3 actually, but who’s counting), two gorgeous young ladies that happen to be my daughters, 28 nephews and nieces (half of whom I keep in touch with) and more great friends and neighbors than an old curmudgeon like me would ever deserve.  My life has been a very outgoing one; we love to entertain, play music, do the public “festivals” all over town during the summer and fall, talk to strangers, buy them beers, all the fun things that end up leaving you with lots of friends and memories.  Consequently, on ones birthday at this age there are several congratulatory phone calls.

My hearing isn’t perfect any longer, my daughters both live in Southern California where the cell reception sucks, half of my friends talk so fast and so much that I have trouble understanding them, and the cell phone I have been using exclusively for years has one infuriating feature.  The greatest invention of man (mostly furthered by the late great Steve Jobs) was the digital revolution.  The worst thing ever to happen to audio was the digital revolution.  I can fit 3000 songs on my iPhone, but none of them will ever sound like they did when played on my turntable.  I can talk all over the world for almost free on Skype, but on my only phone, my only form of verbal communication with a distant world, only one person can talk at a time.

On the old “ma Bell’ phones, you could have conversations.  One person could be talking and you could interrupt them.  Now you have to wait till one side of the cell line is finished.  This isn’t a problem unless the party on the other end NEVER TAKES A BREATH.  It seems like the older the friend, or the less time they spend around other people, the greater the phenomenon.  There are times I have to shout for 30 seconds to get the person on the other end to shut up for a second to tell them I have to go.

The other fine point of a cell phone only society (aside from radiation and brain tumors) is that “ma Bell” rarely, if ever, dropped a call.  It happens now so often we all have a protocol for who calls back.  It’s the person who initiated the call in the first place, in case you didn’t know.  Poor reception, poor audio, poor signal, and poor speakers (on an IPhone) is starting to equal poor me.  Sorry for the whining.  It has been a wonderful day, but one of my daughters asked me if I was going to write a post on my birthday.  I didn’t mean to sound like Andy Rooney, for those of you old enough to know who he is.  Remember 60 Minutes?  I think that was around even before cell phones.  Never mind!

With all of the love and friendship I feel on my 58th birthday, I long for the good old days of the land line.  Progress is not always progress.  Stay hungry, Stay foolish!

 

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Are QR Codes Good For Local Marketing? A Contrarian View

 by Chris Silver Smith

Quite a few marketers have raved about QR codes as the best thing since sliced bread. Small-to-medium local businesses wonder if they should jump on the bandwagon as well, but is there enough substance to justify the buzz? Consider this contrarian view before deciding if you should.

Are QR Codes Good For Local Marketing? A Contrarian View

With new and emerging technologies, it can be challenging to identify whether integrating them will produce a good-versus-bad ROI. With some experimental interactive marketing ideas, the “law of diminishing returns“ eventually kicks in, meaning you expend progressively more time and effort for lower and lower returns.

If the tactic you’re considering has an extremely nebulous potential return, it might not justify any time spent on it at all. QR codes may fit into this category.

Reasons To Nay-Say QR Codes

They are not a substantial improvement over URLs. At its most basic level, a QR code is a method for communicating and storing a very precise ID to be associated with some thing, such as a product, an advertisement, a business, or an individual. In this respect, it works very similarly to a URL. (They can also store plain text, but most of their best business functions seem to be in the role of ID/product-numbers or URLs.)

For instance, if you saw an ad in a newspaper or magazine that looked interesting to you, you could scan it with your mobile phone, and the app on your phone would translate the graphic code into a URL which you could save or have it launch straight into a browser window on your phone.

While this theoretically could save you from having to manually type in a URL you read off the ad, it’s not necessarily all that much faster (I’ve watched people pulling up the app, getting close enough to the QR code, aligning to snap a pic, etc.). If one frequently wanted to visit URLs found when reading newspapers or magazines, this small time savings could drive one to install and use the app.

But, I’d venture to say that most people reading print media are not in a mode to take notes or go look up websites all that frequently while in the midst of that activity — I think those moments are more sporadic. And, when a consumer reaches that point, it’s not difficult to type in a URL, which incidentally might be easy to remember, too.

Some of the main uses for QR codes where local business marketing is concerned has been the practice of placing QR code decals on storefront windows or in print ads, and the matrix codes are linked-to the company’s website URL. This was pushed by Google Places, and many small businesses got the decals and placed them on their windows in a nearly knee-jerk reaction based on the assumption that if Google thought it was good, then it must be. Or, perhaps it might give them some sort of advantage in Google rankings.

There’s no reason to think that QR codes help in local search rankings on Google or elsewhere. Many marketers are desperate to push against any perceived lever there may be in making the needle move in Google rankings, so quite a number of people fell in line and posted the matrix code graphics on their store entrances. But it likely did nothing for rankings. In fact, there’s reason to believe that messing with your site URL structure to make better QR codes may de-optimize it for search.

Rhetoric around QR technology has been suspiciously hype-laden

The online marketing community’s enthusiasm around QR codes has made it sound compelling and the excitement that all of us have around clever tech is catching. But, there needs to be a good reason to use it or else it won’t have a natural place in consumer ecology.

The short life-cycle arc of the CueCat indicates this could be an evolutionary dead end

The CueCat was the product of a flashy startup during the dot-com era which allowed people to scan in small barcodes which could be later uploaded on computer to sync up with URLs.

A CueCat Scanner used technology similar to QR codes.A CueCat Scanner used technology similar to QR codes.

I remember when I was called in by the print side of my old yellow pages company to integrate CueCat code with our website for a brief, thankfully-abortive time period. I was so horrified when I realized what it was and how far in bed the print product manager had gotten with the Digital Convergence company that produced the CueCat.

It was so patently obvious that it was a nearly-pointless novelty item that I could not see there being sufficient consumer adoption of the technology to justify the amount of yellow pages ad print space to allow for the barcodes.

So, it was no surprise to me within a mere year or so when I was called upon to vet Digital Convergence’s technology for consideration of being acquired as the company was about to go bankrupt — and I had no hesitation in killing off the proposed buyout based upon technical incompatibility with our server environment and assessment of the CueCat’s complete lack of sufficient consumer adoption.

It’s still horrifying to me how eager some unsophisticated companies were to associate themselves with technology they understood poorly, and how much money they lost from investing in the technological dead-end.

Debbie Barham of the Evening Standard described the basic failure best when she said, “[the CueCat] fails to solve a problem which never existed.” And, that unfortunately seems to describe QR codes, too.

Slight inconveniences with products can amount to huge barriers for adoption

With QR codes, there are a few different inconveniences: you must download and install the app(s) on your phone. You must scan the codes. You must FIND code to scan and be near enough to capture it.

Could it be easier to use? Well, imagine if your cell phone had an app which allowed you to snap a photo of a URL, and then it might automatically launch your browser window with the URL. This isn’t far outside of our current technology.

There must be a compelling incentive for consumers to adopt it

If it doesn’t quite speed up some interation enough, then it needs some sort of premium to bribe users into getting involved.

Google dropped support for QR in Places

After initially pushing intensively to get SMBs to adopt them and use them as decals at their places of business, Google dropped QR code support. If this had been working for local consumers, Google wouldn’t have abruptly halted it. This is a significant indicator that it has yet to hit critical mass.

The vast majority of average consumers haven’t a clue what it is!

Poll the men-on-the-street in your area and see how many of them know what a QR code is and have a QR app installed on their cellphones!

As a unique identifier for people, businesses, things — it likely will not have a long lifespan

For businesses, apps becoming more adept at identifying/linking based upon ubiquitous geolocations, for instance. And, what about RF IDs (a.k.a. “NFC” – “Near Field Communication”)?

Nanotech devices with embedded RF ID detection could offer seemless ID detection and invisibly bridge the gap to connecting with online/virtual info. (There is speculation that Google dropped QR code from Places in order to replace it with NFC-enabled decals.)

URLs have wider recognition and might be preferable to using QR codes in print ads

Unlike QR codes, a URL doesn’t require locating an app, downloading it, installing it, and using it to snap a pic of a code graphic. For consumers who don’t have smartphones or have yet to download the appropriate app, a URL (including conveniently shortened URLs) will work better.

Multiple, warring code protocols result in some consumer confusion

The fact that there are multiple QR flavors may necessitate loading multiple apps to read different codes for different purposes. A consumer who feels unsure of which app to use for a code will tend to avoid participating. A service which requires a degree in Internet technology to use it is a service destined for failure.

Reasons To Believe In QR Codes

It’s easy to find reasons to nay-say QR code. However, it has gained some number of devotees and some growth of users. It would be simplistic to ignore that the technology has a few reasons to believe in it and consider that it might become sufficiently robust to gain traction. Here are a few of the reasons which I think have some merit.

It is an evolutionary step up from the CueCat

QR Codes only require smartphones for the device, compared to the specialized CueCat scanners — so, it is founded on a device which many consumers already have. While this is an adaptive advantage, it’s also insufficient in my view, because I didn’t believe the specialized device was the main flaw of CueCats in the first place — it was their lack of compelling reason to be used.

Still, this incarnation has the advantage of a slightly lower barrier-to-entry, and each incremental advantage helps bring the concept closer to the tipping point where it might finally reach critical mass.

QR code might manage to achieve a necessary degree of cool factor

Just one clever PR stunt could help propel it from the digiterati/early-adopters over into popular culture. There have been quite a few different companies, organizations and individuals which have done something innovative with QR in order to get some publicity buzz.

For example, a few days ago Ballantines whisky company got a tattoo artist to ink a QR code onto a friend which was linked to an animated version of the tattoo illustration:

Yet, this is more of a novelty than something which will bring QR tech over the top. Few people have access to the tattooed guy to scan in his matrix and get the animation to launch, so there’s no incentive for people to download the app and play along. For a stunt like this to really convert the non-QR-enabled, it needs to involve a more popular subject and it’s got to get a lot of people interested in making the scan themselves.

There is still some time yet before omnipresent ID technologies catch on and become standard

NFC or some nanotech ID handshake may be just around the corner, but they haven’t arrived. Until then, there may be some useful applications for QR protocol.

Google’s purchase of Punchd indicates it may still have plans for QR where local is concerned

Punchd is a service that has a built-in incentive that can drive consumers to seek out the special QR app, download, install and use — frequently. Mashing up a loyalty program which users can engage with via cellphone makes for a compelling raison d’etre.

Innovative QR code use indicates that the tech could be one small leap away from becoming really useful

A South Korean grocery store, a Homeplus company, figured out that providing busy shoppers with a virtual store in subway stations where they are a captive audience might be solid gold, and enabling the shopping cart functionality by having consumers scan QR codes for each product they wish to purchase is actually a brilliant application.

Now, if someone comes up with an equally compelling application here in North America, you could see QR codes really enter the mass consciousness in a big way.

Conclusions

QR codes have yet to achieve sufficiently widespread awareness in popular culture. Their usage  could still grow at a rapid rate as some have cited, but their penetration is still insufficient to justify time spent on integration for most small, local businesses. But, don’t ask me — ask a small, representative sample of your usual customers and see how many of them know about it.

If you’re a small business, consider first if you’re in a tech-savvy industry where your customers will commonly know what this is and use it, or if you’re in a highly tech-aware location, such as Seattle or Silicon Valley. If you fall into these segments, you may fall within a narrow exception case category and this could be worthwhile for you to experiment with (particularly offering Punchd loyalty discounts).

Additional innovative applications like the South Korean grocery use could happen in the North American market, but until that happens this still may not have reached the necessary tipping point to be worthwhile.

Some future innovative stunt like the QR tattoo might manage to tempt large numbers of consumers into trying out the technology, helping it to jump past the tipping-point.

For larger companies with sufficient resources to spend, a QR integration could be used as a speculative experiment similar to the Ballantines company’s tattoo gimmick, and they still might get some publicity/buzz value out of it even if it doesn’t evolve into a more worthwhile medium.

But, for the majority of small, local businesses, this is a speculative curiosity which simply doesn’t yet merit any expense of time/resources to mess with. As such, for most of these businesses any time spent playing with this will translate immediately into lost money.

However, stay tuned on the QR code topic where local interactive marketing is concerned!

Where I could’ve predicted the rapid death of CueCat, the story isn’t completely over for QR yet, and it might yet climb its way up over the tipping-point and make it into a sustainable position in the marketplace here.

It will need something to help propel it further, though — some increase in the ineffable “coolness” factor such as a Lady Gaga full-body QR code tattoo, or virtual shopping malls in subway stations — but, it might still happen.

 

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