Getting Started in Smart Packaging – It is Time to get Started
Sometimes the most difficult step in a journey is the first one.
With smart packaging and connected products, many brands and companies have struggled with getting started because of cost, technology choices, available resources or other valid concerns. They are still intrigued by the opportunity smart packaging presents, but remain skeptical.
Based on my experience in this industry, now is the time to get started. Sure, prices for materials and solutions may still be going down and there could be some fabulous new technology that comes out next year, but the experience and knowledge to be gained is too important to wait for the future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes have seen somewhat of a renaissance and have been embraced by a larger part of the population and the recent release of the IOS14 operating system for iPhone has made NFC reading available without an app on most iPhones. Combine these facts with a general interest in touchless experiences and you have a great opportunity.
So there is an opportunity, but what can I do if I do not have QR codes or tags on all of my products? You can get started. The interaction that takes place with a smartphone is completely flexible and can be adjusted to your distribution channel or how your customers interact with your product.
Let’s begin with retail opportunities. If you were a manufacturer of barbecue grills that are sold in retail stores, you may be interested in improving customer education about the features of your brand. You could create a point of sale display with an NFC tag or a QR code to be placed on or near your products at retail. The code would then link the customer to an experience that educates them about purchasing a barbecue grill. This should not be a link to the regular web page for the product. Your customer is standing in the store near your product, and presumably others like it, and the brand has a chance to tell their story. Moreover, the customer has taken an action that has indicated that they want to learn more, so you can ask questions about features they are looking for, how much they want to spend or other questions to tailor the message to their needs. In this example, the brand has taken a first step in smart packaging by creating some retail displays and targeted content that could help “sell” customers that are looking to buy.
Beyond retail and sales, smart packaging and connected products can help a brand establish a relationship with the customer. When you buy a barbecue grill or a piece of furniture that needs to be assembled, you take that product home and face the challenge of assembly. With a simple registration card enabled with a QR code or NFC tag in the box, the customer is presented with the chance to register the product, get the appropriate assembly instructions in whatever language they want and have access to video descriptions to help them. Beyond that, the brand can offer a phone number for assembly questions, discounts off accessories or a chance to join a loyalty program. With a simple card that gets dropped in the box along with assembly instructions, brands can create a connection with a new customer.
These are a few examples, but think about what can be learned with each interaction. Do your customers use the tag? Do they join the loyalty program? Have we decreased the number of calls to our help line with better education? Are our sales up? Are our distributors happy with the program? Analytics behind these interactions can help determine what programs work and most importantly, how to improve the next one.
If you are not in the position to enable your entire product line and supply chain in terms of smart packaging right now, you are not alone. But whether you consider a small pilot in a particularly interesting market or a campaign centered around a new product launch, the lessons that you learn will improve each project after that. QR codes can be an inexpensive way to get started and the lessons learned with that campaign apply to NFC or whatever other technology comes up in the future. If you could speak to a customer at the point of decision with what we call a Hand to Brand™ connection, what would you say? You can start answering that question now.
More people had an interaction with smart packaging in 2020 than ever before and the same will be true next year. You can wait for the “perfect” opportunity to get started, or simply take that first step.