Before everyone had a computer in their pockets, scanning was limited to retailers. Now that most phone cameras let users scan QR codes, brands are reimagining the possibilities. UPC symbols aren’t going anywhere yet. But with retailers considering updating their scanning technology and brand owners supporting the shift, consumers may soon see smart packaging that gives them information they need.
“UPC is rooted in physical retail, but we’re in the midst of a transition to e-commerce and direct-to-consumer models,” says Stephan Ango, co-founder of packaging supply chain platform Lumi. “Going forward, QR is a better identification format because it is consumer-friendly and multipurpose.” Paper packaging’s ability to support scannable printing processes like QR codes, dot codes, digital watermarks and other data carriers makes it an ideal surface for the shift and lets codes be printed at smaller sizes than some other materials.
There’s a smart packaging use for every business concern. Savvy brands are already using easy-to-create QR codes to let consumers do all of the following:
- Take a journey. Coffee drinkers in Sweden can trace the origins of their brew from farm to mug by scanning a code on the folding carton of a leading brand.
- Enter the QR classroom. Breathe easy, frustrated DIYers: Smart packaging can bring consumers directly to instructional videos. It’s not limited to the actual product, either: By printing the boxes of some of its televisions with a dotted matrix, a major company is guiding customers to repurpose its boxes into objects such as cat houses and magazine racks. QR codes bring up how-to tutorials.
- Get playful. Want to take a selfie with animated characters that embody your favorite candy? A major confectioner used QR codes to let consumers do exactly that, as well as granting them access to exclusive content. Other brands have used QR codes to let consumers play games.
- Show off their commitment to sustainability. Companies that use paper packaging are already showcasing their values, and customers are paying attention—78% of Americans surveyed said they were likelier to buy products packaged in paper than other materials because of their environmental impact. Smart packaging takes that further. Lumi released Lumi ID, a tool that brands can use to give their customers localized information about the sustainability of their packaging. “Some companies that are really looking at sustainability want to be able to trace the entire life cycle of their packaging from start to finish,” Ango says.
- Improve customers’ health. Buying a bag of oranges once doesn’t make for a better diet, but developing habits around “eating the rainbow” does. Producers of health and wellness items could use QR codes to prompt users to sync their purchases with their phones and receive daily reminders to keep up the good work.
- Prove that their product is the real deal. QR codes and other forms of supply chain technology have long provided peace of mind against counterfeiting concerns. It’s useful for consumer goods—and potentially lifesaving in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Learn more about Packaging, as well as the added benefits and solutions from our other industry associations on our Association Partners page.View Association Partners