Saturday, December 1, 2007

Get With It with Widgets

Next time you’re in line at Starbucks during the morning rush, you know you’ll be there for a while so entertain yourself by doing a bit of marketing – help educate consumers about an impressive phenomenon known as Widgets. Turn to the person behind you in line and ask them “Do you know what a widget is?” Chances are they’ll say “no.” So seize the opportunity to give them a brief description of a widget and they’ll likely respond with a sudden expression of familiarity and realization that they have, in fact, used a widget before.

Widgets have existed since the beginning of the World Wide Web, but have only recently begun to see their full potential as a strong marketing tool. Many people have downloaded and used widgets assuming the widget is just a helpful tools created by a company to make their user experience more engaging and successful. While this is one of the goals of a widget, what the companies really had in mind is marketing - the opportunity to own prime real estate on the consumer’s desktop.

One very popular widget is Southwest DING! – travelers and non-travelers have downloaded DING! when searching for a well-priced fare. It’s simple to use and is not disruptive to the user. From Southwest’s perspective, they own this consumer before any purchases have even been made. In the future, it’s more likely that the consumer will conduct a quick search on DING! prior to checking any other airline’s website.

Another fun widget is The Gap ModelMaker which allows consumers to add their face to a Gap ad. However, this isn’t where the genius ends. The user can then select the outfit for their picture and also add accessories. Although the consumer simply thinks they are dressing their own little Gap ad, they are actually browsing Gap’s online store. Even if only a small percentage of consumers visit Gap Online or walk into a Gap store as a result of the widget, The Gap will have succeeded in accomplishing their goals.

Some of my favorite widgets include The Simpsomaker, My iTunes, PopSugar and Top Lists. On the other hand, instead of downloading widgets created by companies, websites like GoodWidget allow users to create their own widgets and send them to friends. Now this is even more brilliant. Companies are now able to get consumers to essentially do their marketing for them! Genius.