Tag Archives: qr codes

Secret Shopping Visitor Guides

It really simply started as a curiosity about what other destinations were doing with their Visitor Guides.  But then as co-workers will tell you, my ideas get bigger and bigger!  How are other DMO’s Visitor Guide request processes?  How long does it take Guides to arrive?  Are they sent first class or bulk?  What size are they?   And then to the original question, what features are destinations including in the Guides?

Where else does one get the answers but to ‘secret shop’ Visitor Guides.  So we sent off – or attempted to send off for 60 Guides.  Major destinations.  Smaller destinations but primarily ‘benchmark’ destinations – University cities or cities of 100,000 in population.  The results?

Delivery Of 60 attempts, twice we were unable to even find an ability to request a guide online.  Two more fulfillment pages were broken.  Eight only offered online versions and we weren’t able to order a printed Guide.  So we were only able to order 48 Guides.  Surprisingly, we have only received 39.  Nine requests for Visitor Guides have gone unfulfilled.  Sure there’s got to be some explanation but perhaps that’s the next study – my asking the nine why they never sent a Guide. 

Delivery II The average Guide took 6 days for delivery.  Thus the challenge to our staff – 5 days or less!  Matter of fact, I have a side anecdotal story below about the importance of a speedy delivery!

Delivery III Only one Guide was not sent First Class.  Explains the average six day delivery.

Annual or Multiple Issues per Year We experimented printing three issues per year.  For too many reasons we’ve decided to return to an annual.  We’re right in line as only seven destinations don’t print an annual and those seven – the larger destinations – each printed twice a year.

Size Apparently out is the adage that Guides need to be small, pocket-sized for the visitor to put in their back pocket or purse.  23 of the 39 were magazine sized 8.5 X 11 (or a close size to that, 7.5 X 11.)  12 were digest size (5 X 8 or a close size to that, 4 X 9.)  The other three were 8 X 8, 7 X 9 and 4 X 7.

Length All over the board!  The smallest Guide was 10 pages.  Lengthiest – Orlando’s 233 pager.

Inserts / Enclosures A handful of destinations included a detailed Calendar of Events.  Six enclosed a thank you letter for requesting the guide.  And one destination hand wrote a note and dropped it in the envelope with the Guide!

Content –  Social Media meets print  There are numerous instances in which destinations have included Social Media content in the Visitor Guide.  Detroit’s is the most prevalent.  Detroit includes these “Travel Tips” throughout the Guide which the content is pulled from social media.

Detroit Travel Tip

They even go full-page with the social:

Detroit Social Page

Durham has similar features throughout their Guide:

Durham Fan Favorites

But Detroit keeps pulling from social media and nicely promotes the online world through their “Depict the D” page.  Click here to see the page.

Content – Use of QR Code While I bashed QR Code use last month, I will hand it to Columbia and Grand Rapids for both utilizing QR Codes to bring the online world to the print world.  Columbia offers the reader a chance to scan and have a walking tour of their downtown:

Columbia Walking Tour

Grand Rapids provides a map of their smart phone tour.  The page from the Guide has 10 QR Codes that a visitor can scan and learn more about the public art.

Content – Research back to Detroit where they point blank say ‘We Need Your Help’ and give you a QR Code to scan so you can answer a few questions about their Guide.

Detroit Survey

If you ever wanted to benchmark your Visitors Guide with others, there you go.  That’s a rough summary of what Visitor Guides are looking like today.  Thanks for reading.

Oh, by the way, here’s that story…

In the midst of our Visitor Guide research above, our family is planning our three family vacation next summer.  Thanksgiving Day my brother and I discussed three destinations.  I perused three destination websites.  My wife is still a printed piece person and heck, I being in the industry doing the above research thought here’s two more that I can test.  So, I requested three Visitor Guides.
Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the first one arrived.  (That’s TUESDAY after Thanksgiving it ARRIVES!  Standing O for someone or their mail house working on Friday or Saturday to get that Guide out!)  Wednesday my wife flipped through it while my daughter practiced.  My wife started texting me ads and pictures from the Guide.  She gets home and starts showing the family pages that were dog-eared.  When my son asked ‘can we go there.’  My wife declared, ‘Yes.  This is where we’re going next summer!’
But, what, um, uh, we have two more Guides on the way!  We have two more options!
Not in my wife’s mind.  Destination 1 beat the other two to the mailbox.  She’s already studied the Guide.  She liked what she saw.  She’s made up her mind!
Destination 2’s Guide arrived two days later.  She hasn’t even looked at it.  Destination 3’s Guide is yet to arrive.  Doesn’t matter.  Game over.

QR Codes – Pointless or Effective Tool?

QR Codes… (Quick Response Code).  They’re the little squares with dots.  (See below.)  A consumer scans the code with their smart phone and, well, in most cases, becomes very disappointed in the results!  Most of the time we’re only being sent to a website – and most of the time, the websites aren’t even mobile friendly.  One gets the desktop version of the website that is difficult to read and navigate on an iPhone or android smart phone.  Fail!

I’ve become obsessed with QR Codes mainly from the ‘let’s-see-how-this-one-is-done-poorly’ sense.  I’ve heard how they’re supposed to be used and successful ways they are being used (shared later.)  But first, let’s review the top five worst ways QR Codes have been used.

I’m not quite sure which one is my favorite so they’re in reverse alphabetical order.

Website Bring up the offending website and there it was – right in the middle of the home page.  Naturally I’m curious so I get my phone and try to scan it.  You can’t scan a QR Code off a computer monitor!  Did no one think of trying this before they went live with the site?

I was really curious where the code would lead me so I printed the screen shot, scanned the code and you know what it allowed me to do?  See a picture!  Um, just put the picture on the website and save us a lot of time and frustration and you a lot of humiliation!

Television Commercial Yep, there it was in the corner of the advertisement.  I guess they’re placing it in the ad based on research that more and more are watching TV with laptops, pads or smartphones in hand but for those of us that don’t have it in hand, can one grab their phone, access the scan app, and get up to the TV in time to scan the code?  And based upon the fact you can’t scan a code off a computer monitor, can you scan one off a TV monitor?

Restaurant Menu The code was on the back of the menu.  I scanned it.  It took me to the restaurant’s website – that WAS MOBILE FRIENDLY!  It was a desktop version.  As I flipped through the site, it shared the location of the restaurant and their menu because when I’m sitting in the booth in the restaurant reading the menu, I need to know where the restaurant is and the large menu is too difficult to read so I want to squint at my smartphone to see what kind of burger I want!

Billboard Who in the flip is going to slam on their breaks on the Interstate to stop on the side of the road to scan the code off a billboard?  Genius the one that thought of that use!

Airline Magazine Um, VP of Marketing Genius… we’re on a plane.  and our phones are supposed to be off… and there’s no internet… and one needs a phone that is turned on and internet to follow the code… and, ah forget it!

So after all that sarcasm and ridicule, how are QR Codes best used?

“Getting the consumer one step closer to purchasing” was the best way I’ve ever heard it.  Got them interested in your destination?  “Scan here to book your hotel room” or “see our weekend trip packages” or “purchase your tickets to the (museum, theatre, park, etc.)”  

Don’t give them something they already have, give them something new!  Most likely they are scanning the code from a visitors guide or advertisement.  Don’t take them to more reading.  Take them to a video that then takes them to your hotel reservation system (or ticketing page if you’re an attraction.

I’ve seen QR Codes in ads to travel writers.  The code took the writer to a page on the website that had dozens of story ideas.

Colleagues have QR Codes on their business cards linking new contacts to their Vcard saving time of typing in the contact information!

Put them on conference badges so when one scans it, they have the attendees’ contact info.

Sign at an expo booth.  “Scan to register to win!”

Receipt… have them directed to your TripAdvisor or Yelp or UrbanSpoon listing so they can give a good review or so they can join your email list.

There’s seven.  Bet with your and other reader’s comments, we can come up with seven more!  Comment and share your example of how to use a QR Code.  You can share your QR blunders too!  I always enjoy a good laugh!