Monday, May 7, 2018

The Potential Behind Smart Packaging

When you think of product packaging what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s the thick plastic that always stood between me and a new toy when I was young. You know, the one that was nearly indestructible to any open attempt (especially those safety scissors)? Thankfully, packaging has come a long way and is no longer just about keeping the product intact. Brands are starting to embrace the power and opportunity in packaging.

Up until this point, the term smart packaging has focused on two different aspects: active packaging and intelligent packaging. Active packaging was developed to extend the shelf life of food items, and extend the time period in which these products are considered “high quality”. It typically uses a physical element that helps keep perishable items fresh (think: those little sachets that may be attached to the top of your deli meat packaging). These elements interact with the product to actively maintain its quality. Alternatively, intelligent packaging exists to monitor the food product and report information regarding freshness to the consumer. Although both of these have been beneficial innovations to the packaging industry, it’s now time to give a new meaning to the term. Imagine leveraging the data and information that Active and Intelligent packaging methods provide, and putting it in a consumer-friendly format? We’re not too far off from seeing this concept come to life…and it’s called Smart Packaging.

Instead of simply being used to monitor and adjust the environment food is kept in, smart packaging can act just as smart technologies do–using sensors, databases, and wireless access to collaboratively sense, adapt, and provide information regarding food freshness, temperature, origin, and more! And the best way to provide this information to today’s consumers is–of course–via their mobile device. By adding a quick scan (NFC or QR code) or text method to product packaging, food suppliers can provide a wealth of product-specific information to their consumer–building trust and brand rapport along the way.

By creating smarter packaging, brands are able to engage their customers on mobile in a new and innovative way while also promoting repurchasing. According to a 2016 survey by Dimensional Research, the adoption of advanced packaging is growing rapidly and nearly two-thirds of those polled see packaging as an important part of their brand experience.

Not sure how you could integrate technology into your packaging? Check out these use cases, and explore a few brands that are already doing amazing things with smart packaging.

  • Access to Detailed Brand and Product Information
    Consumers are currently restricted to knowing the information that is provided to them on the outside of a package (Think: nutritional information, or perhaps a few quick-start instructions). If the buyer wants to see anything more, they have to go out on their own and research more about that product or brand. Unfortunately, consumers are unlikely to put in the time to do this while in the store–so, are you willing to continue losing potential customers because of not enabling these individuals to have information at their fingertips? By equipping products with smart packaging, brands have the ability to provide customers (both in the store and at home) the ability to quickly access a wealth of information. From nutritional facts to ingredients, to coupons or recipes, the options are endless in what consumers could have access to.Indola beauty products has already jumped on this opportunity. Their new line, Simply Smarter, has equipped all product packaging with an NFC tag that consumers can tap to enter a landing page with product information, videos, tutorials, styling techniques, and inspirational looks from hairdressers. Consumers now get both the product and salon-worthy look for the price of one.
  • Consumer Engagement and Access to Extras
    Brands often struggle with keeping customers active and interacting with the brand outside of their physical use of the product. Adweek put it perfectly, “customers aren’t looking for brands to define their journeys, they want brands to design experiences that help them create their own journeys.” Now, what if you could get your customers to connect with you at the point that’s most convenient for them? It may be in the store when they’re considering purchasing, or it may be at home while they’re enjoying the product they just bought. Either way, they’d be able to scan your QR code or tap the NFC device and begin the activation.Take PepsiCo for example. At the beginning of the 2017 NFL football season, the company put snapcodes on the sides of bottles and on different chip bags. By scanning the code and engaging in the game, customers were entered into weekly drawings for tickets and other NFL experiences, keeping them engaged with the brand long after their product was already consumed!
  • Perishability
    Twenty-five percent of all food produced on the planet is lost, according to a recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). To combat this, smart sensors installed on packaging can aid in the control of monitoring things like moisture, temperature and oxygen levels. This sensor could then communicate the state of the food with the consumer with simply a tap or scan. Time to kiss the days of wasted food goodbye!
  • Authentication
    Product piracy is a challenge for many companies, especially for brand name products and luxury items. Replacing a branded product with a counterfeit not only causes financial damages but poses health risks as well. This issue has especially been a battle for the alcoholic beverage industry. With high saturation and a crucial need to prove quality, providing a tag that allows the buyer to access online authentication factors can make a brand stand out.

ThinFilm and Johnnie Walker have already partnered to make this technology a reality. The companies created a label that extended from over the seal of the bottle and down the back that contained an NFC tag. This tag would record and store data so that when tapped, it could alert the consumer if the bottle had been tampered with–now, consumers don’t have to worry about purchasing a bottle that has been altered in any way.

Packaging is about so much more than just protecting the product or displaying static information–it’s an opportunity to create interactive experiences then enhance product quality and grow brand rapport. By creating interactive aspects to formerly stagnant aspects of our lives, we have the opportunity to create a brand-consumer relationship like never before.