Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
The use of Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) continues to increase, as free apps are making it easier than ever for folks to focus on these images and see where it will take them. Last year, more than 14 million users scanned a QR code, and that number continues to rise. And interestingly enough, according to comScore, more than a quarter of folks actually scan QR codes directly from web pages. What can a small business owner or marketing professional do to make sure their efforts get noticed? Here are a few tips on how to use QR codes to market your business and engage customers.
Discounts: Companies are finding that consumers want deals, so link your code to a coupon or other incentive to reward customers for checking it out. Don’t be afraid to tie it to something like a short promotional video, at the end of which is the deal. As long as consumers get something out of it, they don’t mind a small investment of time and effort to get it.
Social Networks: It’s a no-brainer to take folks to a landing page where then quickly or easily like or follow you your brand page, but set clear expectations as to what that entails. And again, consider offering special benefits via your social media presence for those that do take the time to follow.
Tinker With The Design: Work with your art department to see if you can place images or words within the center of the QR code to help folks know what it is they’re scanning, and also to catch their attention. Get creative to encourage action.
Be Specific: When you use a QR code, make it really clear what the customer call-to-action is. If you want them to watch a video or consider a specific product, take them to a page that makes that really easy. Don’t just do a generic code that goes to your business’ home page. No one is that interested in showing up and not knowing what to do.
Use Them For Networking: Encourage an extra bit of activity for those you meet while networking by including a QR code on your business card. Or if you’re going to a trade show or another place where you’ll be meeting lots of folks, put one on your laptop bag and encourage others to scan it. It can go to a specific company page or some other link that’s personalized for you, like your LinkedIn profile. It can help make a great and lasting impression on any that scan it.
Gamification: Consider peppering codes throughout your store, website or different ad campaigns, and reward users who are able to find them all. By making QR codes a part of a larger campaign, you prolong user engagement, and hopefully provide positive associations for your brand.
Get Creative: Consider having t-shirts or even bumper stickers made with QR codes, and include cryptic clues as to their destination. The content on the other end is just as important as you’d hate to pique customer interest only to disappoint them with the destination.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
With winter comes another holiday season. And with another holiday season comes an opportunity to wade into the candy-colored plastic land that makes up the kids’ toy market. Some kids are very clear about what they want for Christmas, but offer up items that are difficult to obtain (fire-breathing ponies). Other children are shy about suggesting what they want, or they just can’t make up their minds.
In either case, you don’t want to give them something uncool—that would burden your conscience for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it? Heck, that’s the reason why our very own Scott Steinberg has a blog at Sears Toy Shop where, as resident Toy Tech Expert, he saves himself untold embarrassment in his family’s eyes under the guise of helping other parents pick the perfect technology gifts for kiddos. Looking for a quick cheat sheet to the best the year has to offer? Check out his blog, or have a look below, to quickly get yourself up to speed on the top 10 best holiday toys for 2012.
Furby – Furby is back. Sorry. The little gremlin-thing with “A Mind of Its Own” was in huge demand back in the mid-‘90s, and Hasbro is hoping that 2013 will be the year that everyone starts speaking Furbish again. Furby’s personality will develop according to how you interact with it, and if all else fails, it’ll dance to your favorite songs.
Wii U – Nintendo’s next video game console features a built-in tablet that changes how players interact with the game on the TV screen. Games can be switched to run off the tablet exclusively mid-play, so no more battles over the family TV. The Wii U is also launching with tons of games, including New Super Mario Bros. Wii U and Nintendoland, a Nintendo-themed collection of minigames.
LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet and LeapsterGS– If your kids aren’t quite at the iPad stage yet (maybe you’ve decided the time won’t be right until their fingers aren’t perpetually covered in jam), LeapFrog’s LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet is a safe, hardy alternative. Kids can use the LeapPad 2 to play with exclusive games and apps that are easy to download and use. Also check out the LeapsterGS – among the best new learning handhelds parents can find for kids today.
Kidz Bop Ultimate Hits and Musical Toys – The Kidz Bop kids are back, and “Ultimate Hits” ensures that everyone of all ages can enjoy today’s pop hits. Tracks on this collection include “Tik Tok,” “Party in the USA,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” Imperial Toy actually has a full line of musical gear that’ll help kids get the party started right, and quickly, from Mega Star microphones to Glimmerati electric guitars – definitely check them out this holiday season.
Razor Pocket Mod Electric Scooter – Kids love bikes, but they go absolutely bananas for small motorized vehicles. Razor’s Pocket Mod Electric Scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour and up to 10 miles on one charge. It comes in a variety of models and colors, and at $199.99 USD, it’s relatively affordable.
LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle – This huge LEGO playset delivers what it promises: Ninjas, epic playtime, and enormous battles wherein a four-headed dragon takes center stage. An ideal gift for the young ninja or kunoichi in your life.
Doodle Roll – Doodle Roll is essentially a tube of paper that’s easy to tear off, easy to unroll, and most importantly, easy to draw on. Doodle Roll is an inexpensive, mess-free and hassle-free way to promote your kids’ creativity. Crayons included.
Micro Chargers Time Track – Tiny cars are fun. Tiny cars that zip around tracks at incomprehensible speeds are even better. Toy cars go careening around the Micro Chargers Time Track at crazy speeds. Race your opponent to the finish line!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset – The Turtles have achieved relevancy again (it seems to go in and out with the phases of the moon). Help your kids celebrate with a TMNT “sewer” playset that’s almost as big as they are.
Monster High High School Play Set – Halloween is over, but the Monster High toy series remains popular. In fact, the Monster High School Play Set stands to be one of the hottest toys this holiday season. Your kids’ favorite Monster High dolls can hang out in the cafeteria, in the hall, and even in class—but who goes to school to study, right?
Don’t forget to check out other top picks like VTech’s Switch & Go Dinos (which morph between dinosaurs and vehicles – awesome!), Fisher Price’s Disney’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates Bucky Pirate ship and more either. The good news for parents? Dozens of great options exist for kids of all ages.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
In a quest to become the main destination for kids online, companies large and small create MMOs and virtual online worlds for kids. These are designed to be place where kids can play games while connecting with their friends, all while staying on one site or location for an extended period of time. Sounds a bit like social networks, no? In essence that’s what they are, just with more emphasis on graphics.
According to research firm KZero, there were nearly 1.2 billion registered users across all virtual worlds in 2011, the largest of which is kids age 10-15.
Most of these virtual worlds are free to access, just like the rest of the Internet. Getting there is as simple as typing the correct address in your web browser, and all of a sudden you’re transported to a medieval land, outer space, or even an island inspired by a fast food restaurant. Many virtual worlds aimed at older kids require a download to play, and run more like a traditional video game, but are still free to play, at least at first.
But as you and your kids will soon discover, not everything in these worlds is free.
What’s proven successful for most online worlds is to provide a “freemium” or free-to-play model. Anyone can access these games free of charge, but in order to access more areas, items and fun stuff within the virtual world, kids need to pay a monthly or even yearly subscription fee.
Major brands spend lots of money and resources to attract players to their own virtual worlds, because it provides a way for them to market themselves and expose their brand to youngsters, all while staying compliant with laws about privacy and collecting information.
Companies and major brands such as McDonald’s, Disney and General Mills provide a place online for kids to spend time, although a few have recently come under fire for their use of a “refer-a-friend” feature which many advocacy groups complained to the FTC was in violation of COPPA laws.
Many of these virtual worlds are aimed at tweens and teens. Games like Wizard 101, FreeRealms, Minecraft and Lord of the Rings Online all strive to be a place where older elementary-aged kids spend their time online, as well as their money.
Other virtual worlds are aimed squarely at younger Internet users. Club Penguin, Animal Jam, Jump Start, Starfall and even Build-A-Bear Workshop are all examples of persistent online destinations created to attract young kids, and many tout their educational benefits.
And there are others that fill in the area between the two. Little Space Heroes, Cartooon Universe, Fantage, Fusion Fall and Moshi Monsters blend elements of traditional video games with the easy access of browser based online games.
There are even virtual worlds for families, like Ohanarama, which allow for family and friends scattered around the globe to connect and play games with each other asynchronously.
The concept of online virtual worlds makes a lot of sense from the perspective of developers, and the proposition can be appealing for parents. Instead of setting kids free in the seemingly wild, wild, west of the Internet, virtual worlds allow kids to spend large chunks of time in one safe environment, where they can find games, activities and chances to interact with others. And that piece of mind is even worth a few bucks a month for some parents.
There are a number of reasons why kids love spending time in these worlds, from feeling like they’re having their own space to being able to interact with friends in a new environment. And here’s where we start to get to some of the potential danger areas.
One of the key features of these virtual worlds is that they allow some sort of contact with others, even if it’s just by comparing scores. But most virtual worlds do include the option for chat with others, and it’s here that the proposition of virtual worlds can start to get dicey for many. While many include some form of moderated or restricted chat, nearly all provide some way to access (with parental permission) chatting with strangers.
We’ll take a closer look at how these virtual worlds manage these types of safety issues, as well as look at some of the other dangers and concerns of virtual networks, in the next part of our series.