Monday, June 6, 2011

2D barcodes and gardening: More than just a label

QR Code
Microsoft Tag
I work in the College of Engineering as a web designer. I've been pushing for over a year to use something different and attention grabbing, in a field surrounded by different and attention grabbing. This is why I find it so interesting how quickly and well the nursery-related industries have been able to adopt different bar code technologies and put them to good use.
This is the first year that I've seen QR Codes and the Microsoft Tag used effectively in the industry. These codes and tags are frequently called 2D barcodes or 2 dimensional barcodes. In January 2011, a tradeshow/conference I attended used them to show off new plants that are thought to be hot on the market this year. (The examples go to my facebook page)

According to Direct Marketing News, in March, Home Depot launched a QR Code campaign. If you stroll through the garden center and glance at the tags, you can't miss the funky black and white image on the tag. They've been good enough to give instructions on how to use it for the uninitiated right on the tag.

Screenshot of site brought up from Home Depot QR Code

What happens when you scan the code with your mobile device? It automatically takes you to a web page that offers offers you immediate information in a mobile friendly design. Information like what the plant is, what it looks like at peek bloom and all of the details that are on the back of the tag are available. But who cares? That information is available on the tag right there on the plant. In fact you're holding that information in your hand. The real glamor is found in some of the other tips that they include further down on the page.

There are suggestions for companion plants, general plant info (which includes what a perennial is), and watering and planting tips. They do something else interesting here. They don't beat you about the head with commercial branding of everything they have to offer. They offer almost anything you might need listed, but they don't say things like, "don't forget to visit isle 10 for your fertilizer." I like that, but someone else might find that helpful. Having worked in garden centers myself, many people are interested in picking up all the right supplies in one visit and getting out. So there may be room for change in their marketing strategy.

Lowe's, Home Depot, and more often the growers themselves are offering up more information to consumers through the use of these codes. Outside of the nursery industry, you can find larger companies using 2-D bar codes in magazines, newspapers, and catalogs. I personally find them very interesting, with great potential. No more trying to type in the simplest of urls, just need to hold still long enough to scan, and it takes just a second.

Screenshot of site brought up from 2011 National Green Centre
Conference and Tradeshow Catalog QR Code

There is a lot of information that can be shared in a code too. Each type of 2D barcode is created differently, shares slightly different bits of inform

ation, and can hold different types of information. This media isn't just for pushing a website. I have my contact information included on one, as well as website links, and short resume. QR Codes are free to create and you don't have to have an account with anyone to have one. The Microsoft® Tag is proprietary. An account needs to be set up, but this allows you track all of your codes created, and change data as necessary. Currently it is free.

How do you scan a QR Code, or a Microsoft Tag, or other bar codes available? You must have a mobile device (cell phone, ipod touch, etc.) with a camera. An application (app) for reading the code you're interested in must be installed. Open the app, snap a photo of the code, and you should be off and running. I highly recommend that you check your particular device for details on installation.

Best ways to see it in action are to watch a friend or try it yourself. Want to create a QR Code? Try the Kaywa site for QR Codes or the Microsoft Tag site.

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