When's the last time you recommended a restaurant on Facebook? Or gave five stars to your favorite new coffee house on Yelp?
If you did, then you're part of a crowd-sourcing movement wrapping around the globe. Crowd-sourcing has been around much longer than the Internet, but it's only with the advent of a number of mobile apps and websites that many consumers are reaping the benefit of the wisdom of people farther outside their circle of friends.
And when it comes to how they spend their money, many already well-informed buyers want to know more about the corporations behind the products they buy. Recognizing this desire, companies are searching for ways to bring more transparency to many consumer decisions. What better way than to harness the power of the computer in your pocket, your mobile phone.
Attach comments to product bar codes with a mobile app
While still in a private beta phase, one such mobile app is OpenLabel. You can get an early look at the product by entering your email address on their website.
Touted as "the super fast way for people and organizations to keep each other informed about products," the purpose of the app is to make it easier for regular people to judge the corporations behind the products they buy. And not just when they make a large purchase, but also for the everyday commodities like lightbulbs and paper towels.
Finding answers to questions about corporations, large and small, located all over the world can be difficult. It's hard for the average consumer to know whether a company treats their workers well, or watches out for the environment. Do they test products on animals or support political causes that do more more harm than good?
While some people may not be interested in the answers to these questions, many consumers are, once the barrier to the information is lowered. And that's what OpenLabel seeks to achieve.
Striving to create "the label of the future," the premise of the mobile app is simple. Using a smart phone, scan the bar code on any product and find out what other people are saying about it, and the company behind that product. You can take action in several ways.
Vote a comment up or down, based on the information given. If a comment seems to be suspect, you can report it. If you like the company and want to see more, tap your phone to follow them. And you can always add comments from your own experience.
The primary choices are a green check mark with "I'd buy," next to it, and a red circle with "I'd avoid." Make your selection and back it up with a reason. And if you have some reservations about a product but can't find much about it, simply tap the "Ask Others" button and get feedback from people in your circle.
With the goal of becoming the largest database of crowdsourced product information in the world, OpenLabel still has to make good on their promises.
Watch a video here, to find out more about this mobile app.
Savvy shoppers also want to pass along more than just a written review when they give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to a consumer comment. They may want to post pictures or short videos for the next person to consider. That's where the next mobile app comes in.
Personalize product bar codes with your own content
Another mobile app, called Stickybits, has a slightly different slant. Download the app (with an iPhone or an Android), scan a bar code, and you can attach music, text, photos, or video content to the bar code for others to see.
Once you attach content, the next person who scans the geo-tagged bar code sees what's been added along the way on the product's wall. You can also sign up to be notified when that bar code is scanned again, has new material added, or changes location. And when you scan a bar code, you're rewarded with product discounts and free stuff.
While the mobile app is free, the marketing opportunities seem to be limited only by the imagination.
For example, consider scanning the bar code on a birthday card and adding a link to a video message for your best friend.
Have a brick and mortar operation? Like the way QR codes are being used, place a bar code in your window and link up potential customers with discount codes and special offers, even when you're closed.
A salesman at a trade show could place a bar code on a business card and send potential leads to a link to a new white paper or case study.
The mobile app supports Facebook Connect, and once you scan a bar code, that information can be passed along through social media channels, including Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook.
Content continues to rule the online world, and these mobile apps seek to give consumers a platform to pass that content on to others.