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Idealog—in the ideas business

Trade Aid shortens the consumer-producer link

Trade Aid is bringing consumers and producers closer together this month with the help of instore touch screens.

All Trade Aid shops are installing computers that with a scan of a barcode will link any product to its global producer.

“Trade Aid’s business model is based on having a good understanding of the issues that producers in developing countries face,” says communications manager Michelia Ward. “So this is the perfect vehicle for introducing the producer’s world into the world of the consumer. We are really excited to be able to share this information with our customers. ”

The project has been piloted since late 2010 when Trade Aid volunteer and University of Otago PhD student, Jason Taylor, started developing the interactive technology, which got its start as a prototype cobbled together from an old shop scanner and second-hand computer equipment.

It was originally tested in the Dunedin Trade Aid shop, followed by a second generation model trialled throughout 2011 in the Wellington shop.

Taylor has attracted international attention with the Trade Aid technology and has been asked to speak at the Fair Trade International Symposium in Liverpool, England.

The first version that customers will be able to interact with focuses on Trade Aid’s celebration of World Fair Trade Day on May 12. The screens will be displaying video footage from the World Fair Trade Organization, explaining how fair trade works for producers. Customers can also leave messages or test their fair trade knowledge by entering the Global Party competition.

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Nice idea. I see the link between the producer and consumer as vital. But instead of a computer in the store, why not have each product QR coded - when scanned by the prospective client's Smartphone it links to an online video where you can meet the person/group/village etc. that made the product, and see how by buying the product you are directly helping them. Rise of the ethical consumer and all that. All Good Bananas did exactly this recently.

Because QR codes and handheld devices are all the rage and since everyone is rushing to make mobile “apps”, the intentional point of difference here is the central technology in shop is inclusive. You do not need mobile gadgets to participate. This is more about using the alternative retail space as a learning space and thinking about ways to make the communication around these transactions 2-way, not just speed up “ethical consumption” and “clicktivism” for the tech enabled.

Also, nothing prohibits QR, mobiles, social media etc from being added as compliments to the experience. The initial systems simply focus on delivering digital storytelling in the retail space for anyone to experience.

I am so pleased with the ease of use of this new education tool and can see it being a real asset to the Trade Aid goals, keeping our customers more engaged and connected to the wonderful, talented people who make the crafts. I like that it is interactive within the shop.

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