Gatwick Airport Uses Barcodes to Make Connections

gatwick airportPair a barcode with a smartphone and you have the potential to create a powerful, interactive communication experience or a floundering ineffective waste of time—the difference? Design. Web, print, mobile; good communication is predicated by good design. The folks at London's Gatwick Airport are clearly aware of this principal.

Gatwick Airport is the UK's second largest airport, and the busiest single-runway airport in the world. It generates 23,000 on-airport jobs and another 13,000 jobs from related activities. Gatwick recently invested £1 billion into airport improvements. It takes a lot of work to bring these improvements to fruition, and this work occurs behind-the-scenes. The airport sought an innovative approach that would include passengers in the exciting developments underway as part of the investment programme. The result is the barcode 'Gatwick Discovery Tour,' an audio-visual experience powered by Stickybits, a mobile application which uses barcodes printed on stickers to make every day objects scannable. When a passenger scans one of the barcoded stickers on hoardings at the airport, a short video or photo gallery is loaded on their phone detailing the changes taking place at the airport. Effectively transforming the hoardings, unsightly construction necessities, into digitally interactive objects.

The audio-visual tour will also be linked to location-based social networks such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, so passengers can check-in and view the content online via smartphones. The barcode tour makes effective use of what would be unsightly construction while engaging passengers in the process, turning what could be an irritation into an a interesting, interactive experience.

"The airport is going through a major programme of improvement designed to benefit the passengers but most of this work is hidden behind standard construction hoarding,” said Samantha Holgate, Gatwick’s Head of Airport Communications, "We wanted to find a fun and interactive way to communicate to passengers about how the money is being invested, what work is going on behind the hoarding and how they will eventually benefit. Many of our passengers are social media savvy so introducing stickybits is a great way to interact with them."

The tour begins at at the North Terminal inter-terminal shuttle departure point. Where a video recounts how the new shuttle route between the North and South Terminals was built, and opened a month ahead of schedule.

stickbits at gatwickIn the coming weeks and months, more barcodes will be introduced at check-in and just after security in the North Terminal as well as the forecourt areas and immigration in the South Terminal. Barcode locations will change and content will be continually refreshed so the tour doesn't stagnate. Gatwick's aim is to give passengers an audio-visual behind the scenes exclusive outlining the transformation of their London airport.

The Gatwick Discovery Tour is only one cog in the wheel of the airport's overall social media strategy. Gatwick is aggressively utilizing social media tools to keep passengers up-to-date with airport happenings, give them a mechanism to feedback on their experiences and improve the overall information flow around the airport.

For instance, operations and customer services staff are undergoing Twitter training aimed at utilizing it as a 24 hour real-time customer services tools.

Gatwick's approach to branding through interactivity is brilliant and logical. It is no secret that the best way to connect with someone is to, well, connect with them. These days, whether its with family, friends, or the UK's second largest airport, our primary mode of interaction is digital.

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