When you think of quilters and crafters, someone pulling out a smartphone to scan a Tag might not be the first thing that comes to mind...but Joan Hawley and Rob Krieger want to change that.
Hawley designs quilted patterns for purses, founding her own company, Lazy Girl Designs, almost 15 years ago. Today, Lazy Girl sells over 90 items for making quilts and bags, one of which is a specialty ruler licensed to Ohio-based Creative Grids. Krieger owns Creative Grids as well as Checker Distributors, which distributes over 80,000 quilting, sewing, and needlework products to suppliers. I had a chance to talk to Hawley and Krieger as well as Penny Haren, Jeff Gwinnup, and Laura Carpenter of Checker and Creative Grids about how the companies are collaborating – and using Tag to take the $10 billion industry into the mobile space.
So why mobile tagging and quilts? "The quilt industry is very visual," Hawley explained via email before we spoke. "Quilting is a ‘show me’ craft. Our customers thrive on demonstrations. Tags enables us to link a demo (and so much more) of our products." Crafters who scan the Tag on Hawley's specialty ruler can watch her demonstrate how to use it in a how-to video, and Creative Grids told her she could use their videos too. "This reinforces that our products are related at the retail level when a consumer scans any of our Tags," she writes. "Tag has become a vehicle for our companies to work together to promote and support this one joint product."
After Hawley heard about Tag from a friend, she started researching Tag and QR – and spread the word to Creative Grids. "I felt that Microsoft Tags were the way to go, along with Joan," says Carpenter, "specifically because you have enormous flexibility." She liked how Tag helps them meet the long lead time of magazine advertising while buying them time to decide what exactly the Tag links to, since they can design a Tag for an ad and then change the end URL or video later. "Also, I was amazed with the analytics, the tracking ability of the Tag itself. I don't think that QR codes have that ability...it was kind of a no-brainer. And I was relieved to find the implementation guide with all those case studies and the tremendous resources Microsoft had in place already," she adds. "We liked having that support."
Creative Grids will be expanding its use of Tag from the packaging of the Lazy Girl ruler to its entire product line of over 100 rulers and within the new product catalog. "After reading your blog post showing how Lincoln Electric is placing Tags directly on the product, Creative Grids is now discussing doing the same thing – moving from tagging just the packaging to the actual ruler as well so info will remain with the product – packaging gets lost sometimes," writes Hawley. She herself is adding Tags to Lazy Girl quilt patterns that use her ruler, in addition to the ruler's packaging. Italian thread company Aurifil is even getting on board with Tag after seeing Hawley demonstrate it at a recent trade show.
Are customers as revved up about Tag as businesses? You don't necessarily think of the quilting crowd as being particularly high-tech. When I ask about the stereotype of sweet white-haired grandmas, Hawley admits that the average age of customers is late 50s, and many store owners aren't tech-savvy – so Creative Grids staff taught interested customers how to use Tag at a recent quilt industry trade show. "They absolutely embrace and love the idea," Hawley says.
And contrary to stereotype, quilting also has quite an audience among the Project Runway crowd, the DIYers, the young people who caught on to the knitting craze a few years ago. Twenty-one-year-olds will show up at an international trade show with quilts that don't look like what your grandma made, Hawley says – and things like Tag, Twitter, and Facebook are second nature to them. "We need to be able to talk to that group," she says. "Everybody's online. No matter how you connect, this technology is becoming part of our industry's language... If we can teach quilters to do it, I think there's an unlimited future."
Creative Grids, Checker, and especially Lazy Girl are leading the way. "Joan's ahead of everybody else," Gwinnup says. Hawley's site has a blog, online forum, Facebook page, and a mobile version – so Tag fits right in. She posted a Tag to her Facebook community of 12,000 fans when we started talking and gets 32 scans in less than an hour. Clearly the community is interested. Will she keep using Tag in the future? She replies, "I think we're just getting started."
What do you think of the quilting and crafting industries going high-tech? What other Tag ideas do you think Lazy Girl should try? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.