QR codes and Mobile Apps: What can they do for Destination Marketing?

First I must define yet another acronym and piece of digital technology that has been sprung upon us as of late to “help” us as marketers connect with our customers.  Help it will – if properly adopted as a technology to achieve conversion – and not simply a cool thing to add to a travel guide just because we should

By definition according to Wikipedia, a QR code or “Quick Response” Code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. Simple enough right?

A QR bar code looks like this:

acoupleofchicks.com QR Code

 

Users scan the code into a smartphone (QR code readers are either built in or are a free app download) and they are taken to a web based landing page or mobile app.

As a marketer, the worst thing you can do is to simply send a QR code link directly to a website – and even worse, a website that is not mobile friendly.

(ok so the QR code example above when scanned goes directly to the acoupleofchicks.com website…we did that on purpose to show you what NOT to do…and we had a contest page that was out of date but you get the point).

QR codes will certainly revolutionize what we can do as marketers to reach customers – but must be used at the point of consumption, or close to the end of the travel buying cycle.

Why? By asking a prospective customer to scan a code that you have placed in a print Ad, on a window storefront, or on a brochure – you are asking them to engage with your brand – and you had better have something unique to say or offer.

A customer now has so many choices about how to consume content and marketing messages that it’s critical for travel marketers to give them something valuable, especially if you want to continue the dialogue (and don’t we all!). Smart phones and other mobile devices have made it so that consumers expect instant results all of the time whether they are looking for a nearby restaurant or a particular product or service.

So how do travel destinations use this to their advantage?

The Destination Marketing organization has always been the “official” point of reference for travellers. DMO’s and VCB’s small and large are funded and organized very differently, but all are in place to achieve the following primary objectives:

A. Encourage visitation to their Destination
B. Ensure stakeholders receive the benefits of Tourism
C. To act as the official voice or guide to the destination for consumers

Marketing efforts such as digital display and pay per click advertising, social media marketing, traditional print and television etc. all ensure that the destination is visible to its target audiences when consumers are in the travel dreaming and planning stages.

Beyond the visitor centres and visitor guides that are usually associated with a destination VCB or DMO, how do these organizations provide value to stakeholders and consumers beyond drawing consumers to the destination?

Enter Mobile.

Destination marketers can now use innovative mobile marketing vehicles such as mobile Apps and QR codes to continue the engagement with consumers while they are in market and experiencing travel. As well, mobile plays an important role in the post travel time where consumers are likely to share their experiences via review sites and social media. If a destination can effectively engage a visitor while they are in market, and act as the guide throughout their experience and post experience – they are taking the role of the DMO to a new level.

Mobile devices such as the smart phone and tablets have given us the opportunity to do just that. The travel buying funnel starts with online research, word of mouth (via online review sites, social media and face to face accounts), and continues with conversations both online and offline. That buying funnel for a destination should also extend throughout the travel experience to ensure that stakeholders are being seen while visitors are in market, that consumers are feeling guided – and that they are willing to talk about their experiences – and to visit again.

How can destination marketers use mobile devices, Apps and QR codes to achieve this?

1. At the very least, a destination marketing organization needs to have a mobile version of the website:
Travellers are now relying on smartphones and tablets and do not typically browse websites from mobile devices.

2. Provide a Destination App that gives value to the consumer:
Users will only download an App that provides value. Offer mapping functionality or unique travel experiences with walking routes to your destination app. Give them a reason to use your App while they are visiting and encourage consumers to share experiences while they are in the destination.

3. Use QR codes to offer consumers value and to drive visitors to stakeholder products and services:
A QR code marketing campaign must be specifically designed to assist visitors when they are in market.  The QR code could send consumers to a page offering them special offers from restaurants and stores – with codes visibly displayed for scanning from their mobile devices in travel guides, websites and on storefronts – used to assist visitors while they are experiencing the destination will ensure consumers actually engage with the brand. This will also encourage consumption of stakeholder products and services. A campaign such as this will also allow the DMO to continue to act as the official “guide” to the destination while consumers are in market.

So what can a DMO do to ensure that I as an avid traveler am engaged throughout the buying cycle?

A destination can provide me with a useful mobile app (love this one from Tourism Australia) to download before I visit; one that may help me with directions and other tips to making my experience easy and more fun.  (I am guessing that the app cannot ensure that I will be on time for my flight – but you never know…)

A DMO might also want to promote on their website, and on their social media sites that they have a useful App available so that I can download it in advance and can plan how I will use in while I am travelling.

While I am in the destination, a DMO could invite me to scan a QR code (from a travel guide or on a storefront sign – or from Times Square for that matter!) using my blackberry – taking me to a page that shows me that I am steps away from half price lunch at a quaint sushi bar, and that there is a big sale at the shoe store located in the shopping district known only to locals!  Heaven…

I will then tweet that I love this place and upload a photo to Facebook of my new shoes!

Facebook- more than just the watercooler

Facebook recently released “Facebook stories” which invites users to post their personal Facebook experiences related to everything from finding lost friends, to family connections, to sharing grief and beyond. When Facebook started a few years ago, it would have been impossible to predict how social media would change the way we live and behave online and how open we would become about our lives.

Now we can describe Facebook as the new watercooler, the town hall – for some it is replacing phones and other methods of communication (or simply becoming part of the phone experience – with mobile Apps that allow updates, mobile uploads of photos and videos as well as real time comments and conversations.)

We used to talk about online reputation management and security in information online in relation to making purchases online and sharing financial and other information.  Now with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others following our every move (with our full support I might add), I think it is time once again to address the impact these sites can have on your personal, as well as brand or business reputation.

We all have the facebook friends who post everything from where they are eating, to when their child has a tantrum, to when they are delayed at the airport – but now sites like Twitter and Foursquare have location based geo-tagging and “checking in” functionality as basic features enabling us to be “followed” everywhere – all the time down to the exact location.

A little nudge here to remember that everything that we put online, be it personal information about health, jobs, or the ups and downs of every day life – it will live online forever, and will paint a picture of who you are to future employers, family, friends, and business colleagues and to the billions browsing (or creeping as they say for the obvious reasons) online daily.

Not to mention the obvious privacy risks we all take when we post photos,video’s and information about where we are, who is with us and what we are doing. Everything online is trackable and everything posted will live there in the virtual universe forever.

It bears repeating that although social networking has opened us up to communicating and interacting with each other like never before, and it has opened us to opportunities to market our ourselves, network and interact with more people at any one time – we need to continue to be cautious about what we share online, and how much attention we pay to security features that are available to protect us. (although I would caution that even those are not guaranteed).

Although Facebook and other sites like it have become part of our every day lives and have opened us up to communicating and sharing information for business, within families, and across networks of friends – perhaps it is time to take a step back and look at how we use it, and how much we really share with 400 of our ‘closest’ connections.

The line is blurry, and it will continue to be  until the next ‘Facebook’ changes the way we live online again. Perhaps then we will be brushing our teeth with a mirror that broadcasts our morning beauty routine via real time streaming media – with an ad for Crest toothpaste appearing in the sponsored ads.

Have fun, live and share your stories – but be careful about how you share them online – unless of course you are one of the Old Spice men who have already bared all for millions on YouTube – in that case, it is too late to hide your day job from your 82 year old grandmother.

2009 Reflections – isn’t there an APP for that?

The answer is yes, there is an APP for getting a snapshot of your 2009 status updates on Facebook. This APP took me through the sound-bites of my life in a cheesy card-like summary – which is now displayed on my wall for all to see. Looks like it was a pretty fun year!

2009 saw Facebook take a page from Twitter with live feeds of content replacing the display of content listed by friends most frequented – much to the initial resistance from many a Facebook user. Now we have to work to stalk our ‘friends’ because if they are not updating what they are doing by the minute, we are going have to dig deep to see what they are making for dinner.

With live feeds of content from social media channels such as Twitter, and Facebook- integrated media consumption became the norm in 2009.  Google and CNN are no longer the only sources for breaking “news” stories, and live television now leads to online discussions and minute by minute commentary from millions of people in online communities discussing such important topics as which man the bachelorette should choose, and why the dude with the bad muscle shirt should be ousted from the list of hopefuls – if only for his poor choice in wardrobe.

Social networking online went to new levels in ’09 with live content feeds on Facebook allowing us to capture everything from where we are, to how we are feeling, to what we look like in an instant, appearing to hundreds of our closest friends.

2009 was also the year that “gone viral” was actually something good – it meant people liked you! Even if your most embarrassing moment was being viewed by 15 million people – instant celebrity can now be achieved. Just ask the poor kid who was living out his fantasy of being a Jedi warrior (which was secretly captured on video and posted to YouTube). Not only did 15 million see this, but they also commented and created spoofs with special effects and music to further add to our experience. Ahhhh the new tools of virtual voyeurism.

And then there is the mobile phone. With the SMS – or text, a whole new language has emerged and has been adapted by multiple generations. Kids are texting hugs and kisses to their Grandma’s, wives are sending reminders to pick up the milk…some are even breaking up with a quick one-line SMS.

It is amazing how 5 letters appearing on our mobile screen can make us feel connected, happy, relieved and loved. When did ‘LOL’ and ‘TTYL’ become code for “you are so funny and I feel that I must validate your last message by telling you that or you might misconstrue my silence for lack of interest” and “I am thinking of you too and can’t wait to send you cryptic messages again later when I have more time to think about how to be smart, witty and and down with the new technology at the same time.

If 2009 was the year of the Tweet, 2010 may be the year of the APP. Mobile browsers in phones such as the Blackberry and iPhone have enabled access to everything online at any time. Want to know the name of the song that is playing? Want help with your golf swing? Want to know what to make for dinner with what is in your fridge? There is an APP for that! Perhaps by 2011 we will rely on APPS to tell us it is time to have a nap or take out the garbage.

The capturing of the sound-bites of my life in Facebook status updates, in video and photo uploads, in daily tweets of conversation (with the 14,000 people that have chosen to listen to my rants) has ironically taught me to be in the moment, to enjoy the people I am sharing the moment with – as it is happening.

My final reflection for 2009? It looks like a pretty fun life on Facebook – take some time to enjoy it in reality too!

2009 Reflections – isn't there an APP for that?

The answer is yes, there is an APP for getting a snapshot of your 2009 status updates on Facebook. This APP took me through the sound-bites of my life in a cheesy card-like summary – which is now displayed on my wall for all to see. Looks like it was a pretty fun year!

2009 saw Facebook take a page from Twitter with live feeds of content replacing the display of content listed by friends most frequented – much to the initial resistance from many a Facebook user. Now we have to work to stalk our ‘friends’ because if they are not updating what they are doing by the minute, we are going have to dig deep to see what they are making for dinner.

With live feeds of content from social media channels such as Twitter, and Facebook- integrated media consumption became the norm in 2009.  Google and CNN are no longer the only sources for breaking “news” stories, and live television now leads to online discussions and minute by minute commentary from millions of people in online communities discussing such important topics as which man the bachelorette should choose, and why the dude with the bad muscle shirt should be ousted from the list of hopefuls – if only for his poor choice in wardrobe.

Social networking online went to new levels in ’09 with live content feeds on Facebook allowing us to capture everything from where we are, to how we are feeling, to what we look like in an instant, appearing to hundreds of our closest friends.

2009 was also the year that “gone viral” was actually something good – it meant people liked you! Even if your most embarrassing moment was being viewed by 15 million people – instant celebrity can now be achieved. Just ask the poor kid who was living out his fantasy of being a Jedi warrior (which was secretly captured on video and posted to YouTube). Not only did 15 million see this, but they also commented and created spoofs with special effects and music to further add to our experience. Ahhhh the new tools of virtual voyeurism.

And then there is the mobile phone. With the SMS – or text, a whole new language has emerged and has been adapted by multiple generations. Kids are texting hugs and kisses to their Grandma’s, wives are sending reminders to pick up the milk…some are even breaking up with a quick one-line SMS.

It is amazing how 5 letters appearing on our mobile screen can make us feel connected, happy, relieved and loved. When did ‘LOL’ and ‘TTYL’ become code for “you are so funny and I feel that I must validate your last message by telling you that or you might misconstrue my silence for lack of interest” and “I am thinking of you too and can’t wait to send you cryptic messages again later when I have more time to think about how to be smart, witty and and down with the new technology at the same time.

If 2009 was the year of the Tweet, 2010 may be the year of the APP. Mobile browsers in phones such as the Blackberry and iPhone have enabled access to everything online at any time. Want to know the name of the song that is playing? Want help with your golf swing? Want to know what to make for dinner with what is in your fridge? There is an APP for that! Perhaps by 2011 we will rely on APPS to tell us it is time to have a nap or take out the garbage.

The capturing of the sound-bites of my life in Facebook status updates, in video and photo uploads, in daily tweets of conversation (with the 14,000 people that have chosen to listen to my rants) has ironically taught me to be in the moment, to enjoy the people I am sharing the moment with – as it is happening.

My final reflection for 2009? It looks like a pretty fun life on Facebook – take some time to enjoy it in reality too!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

Drop us a line

Yay! Message sent. Error! Please validate your fields.
Clear
© 2016 IDEAHATCHING