Cedar Lee District debuts QR code, mobile site
This Quick Response (QR) code will be displayed by Cedar Lee businesses to direct the district's visitors to the new Cedar Lee mobile site and business directory.
View Image Gallery
By the end of May, visitors to the Cedar Lee district should begin to notice Quick Response (QR) codes displayed in shop windows. Those who scan the square barcodes with their phones will be directed to a new mobile site that aims to inform passers-by about local events and perhaps help them choose their next destination, according to Kelley Robinson, director of the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District (SID).
“We’re finding a lot of people are creatures of habit and come to the district but will often go to the same places,” Robinson said, noting that while most people recognize the Cedar Lee Theatre, non-Eastsiders who visit might not know where to find Anatolia Café, for example. The primary purpose of the new QR code and mobile site is to encourage visitors to check out businesses they don’t usually frequent. A convenient directory and map feature will help make navigating the district easy, Robinson said.
When scanned with a smart phone’s camera, a QR code directs the user to a mobile website or app. The use of these visual links has skyrocketed recently, according to Robinson, who pointed out that many local newspaper ads now contain QR codes. They are used to promote products, distribute coupons, aid in the search for missing children, and are even being etched into gravestones to give people a way to digitally revisit memories of the departed. The popular technology is being used in Northeast Ohio for community building, and nearby districts, including Tremont and University Circle, are using mobile marketing, Robinson said. "Having already established a social media presence, Cedar Lee making a mobile site was a natural next step," she said.
Available for iOS, Android and Blackberry platforms by late May, the new mobile site will provide a listing of local companies, feature different merchants every few weeks with a “Business Spotlight,” and link to the Cedar Lee Facebook and Twitter pages. Window clings imprinted with the QR code image are being distributed to every Cedar Lee business. Participants will also receive business cards featuring the QR code to distribute to their customers.
In addition to engaging loyal shoppers, attracting newcomers is another goal. “Most people with smart phones rely on the ability to access information immediately. This will play a pivotal role in keeping them engaged in our district,” Robinson said. “We’ve got a 10-minute proximity to University Circle and its institutions, and it would be ideal to capture more of that population and bring them to our district.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of American adults owned smart phones in February 2011, and their use is growing, with adoption levels at 60 percent or more for college graduates; people with annual incomes of $75,000; and 18- to 35-year-olds. In June 2011, around 6.2 percent of the total U.S. mobile audience—14 million mobile users—scanned at least one QR code, according to the researcher ComScore.
When it comes to QR codes, there are pros and cons, said Declan Synnott, owner of Ireland Inc. and vice president of the SID board. “Of course, you want people to come in to your business, but having it on the window is also for people walking by my business who see it, and may want to go to a movie theater,” he explained. “If they scan the code, then they have that site on their phone so they can pull it up anytime. It’s making everything more convenient.”
Keeping content fresh will be a challenge, but with more than 100 businesses in the Cedar Lee district, "there’s always something happening," Synnott said. “Individual businesses will be able to update it, to feature drink specials, or events that are happening on a given night.”
The development of the code and site, by locally-owned UrbanMatrix Tech, cost around $24 each for the more than 100 businesses included in the directory, but Robinson said the Cedar Lee SID is paying that bill. Merchants can pay to update their menus, service listings and event detail. Once they have had about a year to try it out, they can renew their participation.
“It will allow us to effectively use our limited resources to maximize the marketing opportunity for the district as a whole, reinforce our branding efforts and engage the mobile consumer,” Robinson said. “It’s going to encourage consumers to continue to support independent local businesses, and strong commercial districts add stability to a community.”
Kelli Fontenot is a writer and editor living in Cleveland Heights.